Full Text for 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Revisited (Text)

Volume 62: Number 3 July 1998 Table of Contents .................... Howard Tepker (1911-1998) 163 What Does This Mean?: A Symposium Introduction ............... William C. Weinrich 165 A Hermeneutics Text for the Advanced Student ................ Walter A. Maier I11 167 A Valuable Service in Addressing Hermeneutical Issues of the 1990s .............. Gregory J. Lockwood 175 A Strikingly Theological Hermeneutics .................. Dean 0. Wenthe 183 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Revisited ......................... A. Andrew Das 187 Finding Better Ways to Clergy Competence Than Mandatory Continuing Education ........................... David Zersen 209 The Image of The Wheat Stalk and the Vine Twig in the Adversus Haereses of Irenaeus of Lyons ..................... William C. Weinrich 219 ............................... Books Received 228 ......................... Theological Observer 229 Gold, Silver, and ~rbnze - And Close Communion ....................... Kurt E. Marquart ................................ Book Reviews 233 Anthology of the Wrih;ngs of J. Michael Reu. Edited by Paul I. Johnston .................. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. Caesarius of Arles: The Making of a Christian Commzmiiyin Lafe Antique Gaul. By William E. Klingshirn. ................................. Paul W. Robinson Characfer in Cisis: A Fresh Approach fo the Wisdom Liferature in fhe Old Tesfamenf. By William P. Brown. ................................. Douglas H. Spittel 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Revisited A. Andrew Das Recent scholarship on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 has emphasized the social and relational problems that stand behind Corinth's celebration of the Lord's Supper. While most Lutheran treatments of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 have emphasized the sacramental aspects of the text, especially verses 17-22, Jeffrey Gibbs recognized the increasing focus in the scholarly literature on the "horizontal" dimension of the passage, the relationship between believers at the eucharistic gathering.' This passage is difficult because Paul is actually addressing two problems at the same time, the relationship between believers as well as their relationship to the Lord and His sacramental body. Does the current emphasis on the "horizontal" aspect of the text jeopardize its "vertical" features? Because 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 is crucial to a sacramental understanding of the Lord's Supper, this paper explores the relationship between these two poles in the text. The first section investigates the available evidence to reconstruct the situation at the Corinthians ' eucharistic gatherings. Gibbs had left unresolved the exact nature of the situation at Corinth. We will see that the very structure of the Corinthians' eucharistic proceedings demonstrates the importance of believers' relationships to one another. The second section examines afresh whether the text's horizontal emphasis compromises the sacramental understanding of the word "bodyf' in verse 29. In other words, when we "discern the body" are we discerning a sacramental presence or are we discerning, perhaps, the presence of the church, our fellow believers in Christ? Do the horizontal relationships take precedence in the passage or is there a balance with the vertical aspects? The third section buttresses Gibbs' usage of 1 Corinthians 10:17, where Paul actually makes 'Jeffrey A. Gibbs, "An Exegetical Case for Close(d) Communion: 1 Corinthians 10:1422; 11:17-34," Co~~0rdiaajoumal2l (April 1995):14&163. Andrew Das is a 1991 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary and a PhD. Candidate at Union Theological Semina y, Richmond, Virginia. the connection between the sacramental body and the churchly body, as a means of balancing the vertical and horizontal aspects in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. The final section emphasizes the seriousness of both the& issues, even as Paul did. Lutherans tend to focus on the warning of judgment in verse 29 for not discerning the sacramental presence. However, verse 34 sounds the same note of "judgment" when we neglect our relationships with one another. When a congregation comes together to celebrate the Lord's Supper, it is a serious matter into which they are entering, a situation fraught with spiritual peril and the potential of "judgment" if handled in a cavalier or improper manner. Lest we repeat the same mistakes in our own congregations, it would be well for us as pastors and teachers to review this passage and its problems. The Situation in the Corinthian Celebration of the Lord's Supper One cannot read 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 without noticing right away that there was conflict in the congregation. The community was split on an economic basis. The rich humiliated and discriminated against the poor (verse 22). Further, this conflict was taking place during a community or fellowship meal. Today the average Christian is raised in a church where the sacramental bread and wine are distributed together. There is no longer a congregational meal as part of the worship service. The very idea of a congregational or fellowship meal in the midst of the service may seem novel to most. Yet to the Corinthian congregation, the idea of a Sacrament without a community meal might have seemed equally strange. If the Corinthian congregation practiced this meal between the bread and the wine, in the presence of the entire community, then the implications would be profound. It would mean that the early Christians, Corinth notwithstanding, had a much stronger appreciation in their liturgical practice of the horizontal aspects of worship, that coming together in the Lord's body and blood meant becoming united to one another. Two issues, though, remain unresolved. First, were the rich congregational members eating in advance of the poor's arrival, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Revisited 189 leaving only the remains for the "community" meal? Or were the poor members, who had less, being slighted during the community meal in the very presence of the rich who were feasting? Second, what is the relationship between the community meal and the Lord's Supper? Did the community meal take place before the Lord's Supper, that is, prior to the sacramental bread? Or did it take place in between the distribution of the sacramental bread and wine? With regard to the first problem, the New International Version's 0 translation clearly supports the position that the rich congregational members were already eating prior to the arrival of the poor. Note especially its translation of verses 21 and 33: ". . . for as you eat, each of you goes ahead wifhouf waitzhgfor anybody, else. . . . So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other" (emphasis added). What the NIV renders "goes ahead without waiting for anybody else" may also be translated: "eats beforehand his own meal." Thus some of the Corinthians were eating without waiting for the rest. And it is exactly this that Paul confronts: they are to wait for the arrival of the whole congregation before beginning the festivities. This translation and understanding ultimately rests upon two words in the Greek. In verse 21, the word for "eats beforehand is npoAappoivo. The word in verse 33 for "wait for each other" is t~66xopa1. The NIV's translation is a perfectly legitimate possibility. Mark 14:s is a good example of npoAapP6vo carrying the sense of "beforehand: "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial" (NIV). Acts 1796 uses 6~6r'xopat in the sense of "wait for": "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols" (NIV).2 %KGCXO~UL occurs at least five times outside of 1 Corinthians 11:33 in the New Testament A& 1216; 1 Corinthians 16:11; Hebrews 10:13; 1193; James 57. Some ancient manuscripts include the word in John 53. All of the New Testament occurrences of k~6txopar apart from 1 Corinthians 11:33 mean "wait for, expect." The problem is that there are other possible meanings for these two words and, as we shall see, a different translation would lead to a very different understanding of the situation at Corinth. To begin with, npoAappdivo is often used without any temporal sense at all. Thus Galatians 69: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently" (NN). The word npoAappoivo may be &ed in the sense of simply "to eat" with no indication that the meal was "beforehand relative to anything else. The word is used several times in this sense in a stele from the Asklepius Temple of Epidaurus: "After I had come to the Temple, he [the god] commanded me . . . to eqt cheese and bread [zupdv ~ai &prov npoAap~iv], . . . to eat lemon peels [~lzpiou xpolappdivav t& pa], . . . to eat/consume milk with honey [ydila pa& ~~AZTOG npoAaP~iv]."~ npoAapPdivo may mean "eat beforehand" or just simply "to eat." The word itself is inconclusive. The decision must rest on the context. While 6~66~opal may be translated "wait," it may also be translated "receive" or "welcome." In 3 Maccabees 5:26: "The rays of the sun were not yet widely dispersed and the king was receiving [~K~EXO~~VOU] his friends when Hermon presented himself and invited him to go forth, explaining that his wishes were now ready to be granted."4 "Receiving his friends" refers to the king's morning reception of courtiers who came to pay their respects. Hermon and the king had already spoken earlier and the, king had, at that time, issued Hermon a command to carry out. Hermon used the morning reception as an opportunity to catch the king to tell him about the plan to carry out the king's orders. When Hermon invites the king to go forth to tall<, the king is taken completely by surprise by the invitation. He was certainly not "awaiting" or "expecting" this invitation. In fact, by divine intervention the king had 3Asklepius-Epidaurus 1170, 7.9-10.15 in Wilhelrn Dittenberger, Sylloge lizscnptionum Gramarum, four volumes (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1960), 3: 328-29. 'As translated by H. Anderson, in Old Testament Pseudepiigrapha, two volumes, edited by James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday, 1985), 2424. For the original Greek text see Macrabaeorum fiber m, edited by Robert Hanhart (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980), 58. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Revisited 191 completely forgotten about his previous orders. In this context, 6~8E'~opal means "receive" or "welcome." Josephus often uses tK6E'~opal in the sense of "receive" or "welcome." In Jewish Wars 111, 32, Josephus writes: ". . . and now they offered a cordial welcome [~K~E&EVOL] to the commander-in-chief and promised him their active support against their co~ntrymen."~ In this instance, there is absolutely no indication of any waiting or expecting. The same may be said of VI, 140: "But the Jews, constantly scattering and alike attacking and retreating at random, were frequently taken by each other for enemies: each man in the darkness receiving [6&6e'~~zo] a returning comrade as if he were an advancing RomanM6 In VII, 74, the people of Rome receive general Vespasian with great excitement and enthusiasm: "And, indeed, the city of Rome, after this cordial reception [~K~EEu~E'v.~~] of Vespasian, rapidly advanced to great prosperity."' Once again, there is no sense of "await" in the word here. Rather, it means to "welcome" or "receive."' Nor is this usage limited to Josephus or 3 Maccabees. In Sirach 3214: "The man who fears the Lord will accept [~K~E'[&TuL] his discipline, and the diligent man will receive his approval" (New English Bible). In the Letter of Aristeas (205): "After a short pause the guest who received [~K~EX~~EVOS] the question said. . ."9 It is clear from these examples that xpoAappCvo may be translated as "eat" and 6~6r'~opar may be translated as "receive" or "wel~ome."'~ This results in an entirely different 'Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, Books EIII (LCL), H, translated by St. J. Thackeray, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), 2585. 6Flavius Josephus, ?'he Jewish War, Books IV-W (LCL), HI translated by St. John Thackeray, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), 3:416. 'Josephus, Jewish War, 3526; see also VII, 70. Qne may also see FIavius Josephus, Antiquities VII, 351; XI, 340; XII, 138. 9R. J. H. Shutt, translator, in Old Testamentffeudepippha, two volumes, edited by James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday, 1985), 226. The original Greek text is in Andre Pelletier, Lettre D'An'stee a Philmate, Sources Chretiennes 89 (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1%2). 'Tad prefers the prefixed ane~6E~opar for "await" or "wait for" (Romans 8:19,23,25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 55; Philippians 320). translation of 1 Corinthians 11:21 and 33 than the NIV. The NIV had translated the verses: ". . . for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. . . . So, then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other." Given the semantic range of the two words, the following translation is equally possible: ". . . for as you eat, each one eats his own meal. . . . So, then, my brothers, when you come together, welcome [or, receive] one another." The latter translation would clearly support a different scenario, that the rich and the poor were eating the community meal together. The problem would have been as they were sitting alongside each other. One must conclude that the linguistic data is totally indecisive in discerning between the two possibilities. Only context can decide the matter and there are, indeed, contextual indications. The very issue in 1 Corinthians 11 is that the poor were actually present at the meal while the rich were eating. 1 Corinthians 11:21 says: "One remains hungry, another gets drunk. . . . Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?" The poor who had nothing were being humiliated right there on the spot. First, note the deliberate contrast in the text between the rich who have plenty even to drink while the poor do not even have enough to eat. Second, verse 20 is explicit that this is all happening not while the Corinthians were apart but when they "came together."" Third, the language of verse 20, 6x1 zb aCz6, indicates one event and not two or more. Finally, Paul's corrective instructions to "eat at home beforehand in verse 33 would make no sense if the rich were already eating in private prior to the congregational gathering. On the other hand, if Paul were urging the rich to "welcome" or "receive" the poor at the meal, the text would make perfect sense. The poor were being despised in the same community meal alongside the rich.'' ""Gather together" [ouvtp~opat] is repeated five times in verses 17-20 and verses 33-34. The problem occurred once they gathered together. 'wed Hofius ("Herrenmahl und Herrenmahlsparadosis," Zeifd&?& TheoIogie undKirche85 [1988]: 385) points out that in each instance where Paul uses the word "each" [t~auros] with the word "his own" [ibtov] as he does in verse 21, the words are being used inclusively. He cites Romans 145; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Revisited 193 Peter Lampe has highlighted ancient architectural evidence that sheds light on the Corinthian situation. The Corinthian congregation was gathering in the homes of individual members who were the wealthiest in the congregation. These homes were built with two main rooms, the fzzi.Iiizim, a dining room which seated up to ten people, and the afrium, a courtyard which could seat up to forty. The host would seat the most important guests at the meal in the smaller room and the rest of the people in the larger atrium. This was the typical situation at cultic meals in general. It would also explain much of what is happening in 1 Corinthians 11. The poor, most probably seated in the afrim of the host's house, had less available to them to eat while the more important guests in the &icIihium not only had enough to eat, but too much even to drink!13 This situation may strike our modern ears as more than a little demeaning. Surely Christians should not so treat their brothers and sisters. However, in the ancient world, class distinctions were simply assumed. That the poor should be received alongside the rich, as sensible and fair as it may be to our ears, would actually have been radical in Paul's own society. Yet for Paul, this sort of sociological division, as accepted as it may have been, was a division that was contrary to the nature of being "in Christ" (note the sociological categories that Paul uses in Galatians 3:28). This leaves the second problem. Was the congregational meal celebrated between the bread and the wine, or prior to the sacramental bread and wine? Jeremias argues that the community meal was already being "taken less seriously." Paul's instruction to eat at home first prior to coming together 1 Corinthians 3:8; 7:2 7; 1211; 15:23,28; Galatians 6:5. 13Peter Lampe, "The Corinthian Eucharistic Dinner Party: Exegesis of a Cultural Context (I Cor. 12:1734)" AfEmation 4 (1991): 1-16, especially 1-6. A much more detailed and comprehensive discussion of Greco-Roman meal settings may be found in Lampe's source: Dennis Edwin Smith, "Social Obligation in the Context of the Communal Meals: A Study of the Christian Meal in 1 Corinthians in Comparison with Graeco-Roman Communal Meals," unpublished Th.D. diss., Harvard University, 1980. for worship would make better sense if the meal were already preceding the Lord's Supper." In other words, it was no longer an essential part of the celebration of the Sacrament and so may be simply removed to the private domain prior to the congregational gathering. However, this argument is not very compelling. One could argue the same even if the Corinthians ate the community meal in between the sacramental bread and wine. Paul did not see it as essential to the Sacrament, and so, since it was causing problems, removed the practice entirely from the sacramental context. There is another way of arguing that the bread and the wine were taken together. Jesus instituted the Sacrament in a Passover context (Luke 227-8, 15). Jesus' institution of the eucharistic bread was separated by the Passover meal from His institution of the sacramental wine. The Corinthian Christians, on the other hand, were not celebrating a Jewish Passover meal.'' Some have argued that if the early Christian Eucharist was no longer celebrated in connection with the Jewish Passover, then the bread and the wine would no longer be separated by a Passover meal. The bread and wine would have been celebrated together. It is to this original Passover meal setting that "the cup after the supper" refers, without any indication that such a meal was still being celebrated. This line of reasoning is not decisive either. It only means that the Corinthians were not celebrating a Passover meal between the eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine. On the other hand, the passage shows that they were indeed celebrating a meal and, as Jewish and Gentile Christians (1 Corinthians 7:8; 12:2), they would be accustomed to celebrating a community meal between two ritual acts. The Jews began their meals with the breaking of bread and closed with 14Joachim Jeremias, 7he Eucharistic Word ofJesus (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1%6), 121. ''Paul draws upon traditional language, language that centers upon the eating and drinking of the bread and wine. It is the bread and the wine that are the important elements. Perhaps Paul might have argued similarly with regard to the Corinthians' own community meal. Note, though, the reference to the cup "after the meal." 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Revisited 195 the partaking of wine. Likewise, pagan Gentiles, once assembled, would offer a sacrifice to the pagan god and then, after the meal, offer a toast to the good spirit of the house and sing. It is only natural that the Passover meal would give way to the Corinthian community dinner.16 Further, the Corinthian Christians might have been encouraged in this practice by the traditional language. As it stands, the beginning of verse 25 reads: cjaaGtos ~ai [CAapq] ti, notfiptov per& ti, 6etnvfjaar. Is petti ti, Getnvfiuat("after the supper") in verse 25 attributive in usage, moddying notfiptov (the cup), or adverbial, moddying the understood CAape ("he took")? In other words, does the phrase "after the supper" answer "which cup?" (attributive) or does it answer "when did he take the cup?" (adverbial)? The attributive understanding would indicate a particular "cup," the third of the four Passover cups at Jesus' original institution of the Eucharist. However, the attributive usage of the prepositional phrase normally requires the article - that the phrase be in attributive position. The text would have to read ti, notfiptov ti, petti tb 6~tnvfjaat or ti, pet& ti, 6etnvijaa~ no~fiptov.~~ Since this is not the case, the prepositional phrase must be adverbial answering "when": Jesus took the cup right after the meal. In other words, the wording of verse 25 does not emphasize a Passover context but rather that the cup followed the meal. Far from being a technical term for the Passover, the wording in verse 25 parallels Rabbinic language for an ordinary meal. Thus Berakoth 6:5: "If he said the Benediction over the wine before the meal he need not say it over the wine affer fie meal."" If one wanted to argue Jewish antecedents, "he took bread and after having given thanks broke it" corresponds much better with the typical Jewish table blessing before a meal. 16Lampe, 2. 17Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, I Corinthians, International Critical Commentary, second edition (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911), 246; Hofius, 377-78. 1873eMishah, edited by Herbert Danby (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933), 7. The blessing of the cup "after the meal" corresponds to what would happen after an ordinary Jewish meal.19 Note also that in Berakoth 6.5 "after the meal" and 'Ibefore the meal" are being used attributively. Hebrew indicates the attributive usage of the prepositional phrase with a relative particle even as Greek does by placing the phrase in attributive position. In Berakoth 6.5, the Hebrew relative particle is present. Unlike 1 Corinthians 11:25, Berakoth 6.5 is clearly attributive, indicating a particular cup. Berakoth 8.8, on the other hand, is an instance of the adverbial use of the preposition: "If wine is brought after the food . . ." Here the phrase is not speclfpg "which wine?" (as in Berakoth 6.5) but rather "when was the wine brought?" The Hebrew, as expected, lacks the relative particle. This adverbial usage corresponds to the Greek usage in 1 Corinthians 11:25.20 Again, the adverbial usage in 1 Corinthians 1l:W emphasizes the timing of the cup after the meal and not the Passover context. The "cup of blessing" was a Jewish term for the blessing pronounced with the wine after meals. That is how the phrase is used in Joseph and Asenath 8:9 and 19:5; so also Leviticus Rabbah 9.3 and the Palestinian Talmud (Berakoth 7.11b173 and following; Berakoth 8:12a.52 and following). In a Passover meal that would happen to be the third cup. There is nothing technical about the phrase. The early Christians, in this respect, would simply be following the Jewish custom of placing the sacramental cup of blessing after their meal even as the breaking of sacramental bread opened the meal. What about the words Qaaiitos ~ai ("likewise also")? Do these words mow the adverbial pet& tb 6&rnvijoal("after the meal")? If so, the cup would be "likewise also after the supper." It would be, like the bread, also after the supper. The bread and the wine would both be celebrated together after the meal. However, if that were the case, pet& tb Getnvqoar and not t6 not4prov would immediately follow Qaaiitos ~ai.~' The text '?See Hofius' examples from the Rabbinic literature, 379, notes 47,48. Wofius, 82-83. "Hofius, 382-383. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Revisited 197 would read: "