We're making big changes. Please try out the beta site at beta.ccel.org and send us feedback. Thank you!
« Prev III Next »



In order to complete our study of the Passion-sayings connected with the story of the Last Supper it is necessary to examine St. Paul's account in 1 Cor. xi. 23-5.

'For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, how that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was delivered up took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me. In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.'

As appearing in a letter written in 55 A.D., this narrative is early; but the phrase, 'which also I delivered unto you,' carries back the tradition to 51 A.D., when St. Paul first visited Corinth. It is probable, however, that the Apostle is thinking of the days immediately after his conversion and of the tradition made known to him at Damascus and Jerusalem. This is the natural interpretation of the words: 'I received of the Lord.' It is most improbable that the phrase, 'from the Lord,' implies a revelation comparable to that mentioned in Gal. i. 12.11   Cf. Robertson and Plummer, 242f.; Ed. Meyer, Ursprung und Anfange des Christentums, i. 175; Goguel, The Life of Jesus, 445. Neither the terms22   paralambanein (cf. 1 Thess. ii. 13; 2 Thess. iii. 6; 1 Cor. xv. 1, 3) and paradidonai (cf. Mk. vii. 13; Lk. i. 2; Acts vi. 14; 1 Cor. xi. 2, xv. 3) are regularly used of the reception and transmission of a tradition. 214 which are employed nor the contents11   'Otto remarks that Christ cannot have revealed: 'The Lord Jesus in the night in which....' Cf. Reich Gottes and Menschensohn, 276. of xi. 23-5 suggest a revelation, but rather an oral tradition such as the primitive communities were able to give. St. Paul is recording what he had learnt well within a decade of the death of Christ.

It would, however, be rash to suppose that his narrative must be accepted forthwith in all its details, as superior to the Markan and Lukan accounts of the Supper. How ancient the Synoptic narratives are, it is impossible to say, but they are certainly very much older than the Gospels in which they stand. Moreover, it may be that the details of 1 Cor. xi. 23-5 owe something to the effects of St. Paul's sojourn in Antioch and to his subsequent experiences during the Gentile Mission. No narrative, not even that of an eyewitness, is exempt from the possibility of interpretative modifications, and this danger is increased when, as in the case of xi. 23-5, it is received from intermediaries. For this reason the sayings in xi. 24f. must be examined with care.

(a) 'This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me' (1 Cor. xi. 24).

The first four words appear in every account of the Supper, and their genuineness is beyond dispute. The phrase, 'which is for you,' is peculiar to St. Paul's account.22   It is repeated in Lk. xxii. 19b in the form: 'which is given for you.' Its absence from Mk. xiv. 22 is not in itself a decisive objection, since the idea at least is completely in line with the Markan representation of the self-offering of Jesus in x. 45 and xiv. 24. Dalman, however, thinks that 'what is possible in Greek (to uper umwn), appears in Aramaic as a very unusual heaviness', and that the phrase 215 must be considered 'a hellenisation'.11   Jesus-Jeshua, 144f. Probably, as Jeremias suggests,22   Die Abendmahlsworte Jesu, 58. its presence in the Pauline formulation is due to liturgical usage, and to the fact that the parallel expression: 'which is poured out for you', which appears in Mk. xiv. 24, is not suitable in the saying regarding the cup in 1 Cor. xi. 25. On the whole, it is best to regard the phrase as an interpretative addition which correctly defines the words: 'This is my body.' The rest of the saying: 'This do in remembrance of me,' is also peculiar to 1 Cor. xi. 24, but as a similar command is found in 1 Cor. xi. 25, both passages may be considered together.33   See pp. 206ff.

(b) 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me (1 Cor. xi. 25).

The relation of Mk. xiv. 24: 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many', to 1 Cor. xi. 25 has already been discussed; and the conclusion reached was that it is not a variant of the Pauline saying. Is, then, 1 Cor. xi. 25 a variant of Mk. xiv. 24, or are the two independent sayings?

If it is necessary to choose between the two, the Pauline form must be regarded as secondary and derivative. The phrase, 'This cup,' is easily explained as a closer definition of the indefinite 'This' in the Markan form. Such a modification might naturally be made in a Gentile environment in order to avoid the difficulties of the bolder Markan saying: 'This is my blood of the covenant.'44   Cf. Dalman, *Jesus-Jeshua, 161; Jeremias, op. cit., 60. Once this change is made the rest follows. It is no longer possible to express the predicate in the words: 'is my blood of the covenant,' since this form is intelligible only if the subject refers to the wine. The cup is not, of 216 course, thought of apart from its contents, but when it is expressly mentioned as the subject, it becomes necessary to describe it as constituting the covenant made possible by the blood of Christ, and the adjective 'new' is suggested by Jer. xxxi. 31 and by contrast with the covenant of Ex. xxiv. 8. The immediate implication is that the cup is the pledge of the covenant, though how far this idea would have been from satisfying the mind of St. Paul is clear from his impassioned question: 'The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ?' (1 Cor. x. 16). In the way suggested, then, it may be contended, the Pauline version came into existence in a form more intelligible to non-Jewish Christians than the challenging words of the Markan tradition.

This argument, it must be allowed, is attractive, and it may represent the facts. It is open, however, to at least two objections. Paul's words do not suggest that he is giving a later form of the saying; he shows no knowledge of any other form and implies that he is recording the original tradition. He may, of course, have been mistaken. Does he not show, in 1 Cor. i, 14-6, a confused recollection of those whom he had baptized? However this may be, in 1 Cor. xi. 23-5, as in 1 Cor. xv. 3-7, he speaks with such deliberation of matters which had been the subject of his teaching that it is difficult to believe that he is reproducing a form of the saying which first became current in a Gentile community. A second objection is that the explanation is not really necessary. 1 Cor. xi. 25 may be as original as Mk. xiv. 24 itself. It has already been suggested that the saying: 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many,' may not have been fully understood at the time. While this admission is no argument against their genuineness, it suggests the possibility that Jesus may have expounded His own words. Is the saying 217 found in 1 Cor. xi. 25 part of His interpretation? Criticism is rightly on its guard against 'harmonizing expedients'; but when it can be shown that one saying is probably not derived from a second, and that the second need not be a variant of the first, there is matter for reflection. It is especially important to avoid the delusion that different accounts of the Supper are self-contained and mutually exclusive. Form-criticism reminds us that such narratives are merely the rounded residues of earlier stories from which much has fallen away, and that the sayings they contain are those which attracted the interest of the narrators. Similar sayings in different narratives may be, but need not be, identical; on the contrary, they may be original variations on the same theme. How far these principles can be applied in the present case, it may be impossible to decide, but there is certainly as much reason to explain 1 Cor. xi. 25 as an original interpretation of Mk. xiv. 24 as to adopt the hypothesis of secondary modification.

Hesitation to decide between these competing views is disappointing, but the very fact that we are compelled to hesitate adds force to the contention of Jeremias that, essentially, the meaning of 1 Cor. xi. 25 and of Mk. xiv. 24 is the same. 'With touto to poterion Paul means not the cup, but its contents.' 'Mark and Matthew, as much as Paul, compare the wine with the blood by the shedding of which the new covenant is established.'11   Die Abendmahlsworte Jesu, 59. If this opinion is sound, it matters less whether 1 Cor. xi. 25 is an original utterance, and the practical question is which passage gives the theologian firmest ground for his special work. On this issue there is hardly room for serious doubt: with Jeremias,22   Op. cit., 61. he is well advised to select the 218 words of Mk. xiv. 24: 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many.'

Attention must now be given to the command to repeat the rite in 1 Cor. 24f.: 'This do in remembrance of me,' 'This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.'11   C A. Anderson Scott prefers the rendering: 'with a view to recalling me'. Cf. Christianity According to St. Paul, 191. For various reasons, these words are widely regarded as secondary additions. The grounds for this opinion may be summarized as follows: (i) The words are wanting in Mk. and in Mt.; (2) In suggesting the thought of a memorial meal, they introduce a new idea not found in the other accounts; (3) The terminology is that found in ancient formulae used with reference to the commemoration of the dead;22   For examples cf. Lietzmann, An die Korinther, 58, 93f.; Jeremias, op. cit., 58f. (4) The sayings reflect the interests of the primitive communities rather than those of Jesus.33   *Cf. Wellhausen, *Das Evangelium Marci, 113.

It cannot be said that these arguments are particularly impressive. Enough perhaps has already been said concerning Markan omissions. In reading not a little Synoptic Criticism one has the impression that the critic looks upon Mark as a fellow Neutestamentllcher. Goguel, for example, observes: 'Since the Early Church believed that it was obeying the will of the Lord in celebrating the Communion, the suppression by Mark of a command to repeat the rite which he found in the source would be unintelligible. In introducing it Paul was not conscious that he had altered the tradition.'44   The Life of Jesus, 446. How much do we know of Mark's source, and would failure to record the command be unintelligible? The fact is, to a modern 219 inquirer the question whether Jesus commanded the repetition of the rite is a matter of first importance. Can we suppose that Mark felt the same? If Paul was not conscious that he had altered the tradition by introducing the command, was Mark conscious of the enormity of his offence in omitting it? He may well have taken for granted a command which no one doubted. Again, while a new idea is introduced in the Pauline narrative, it cannot be said to contradict the ideas of the Synoptic accounts; on the contrary, the injunction to recall the presence of Jesus in future celebrations of the Supper is in harmony with the consciousness of a farewell meal reflected in Lk. xxii. 18.11   See p. 185. Further, the fact that poiew and anamnesis or mneme* appear in pagan injunctions to commemorate the dead, while interesting, is not surprising, since the words are obvious terms to employ in a very natural request; and, in any case, parallelism is not the same thing as borrowing. Finally, the observation that the sayings are in agreement with the interests of the primitive communities does not exclude the possibility of a definite command of Jesus. Wellhausen's assertion that the sayings assume a custom of celebrating the Supper by the community, which Jesus could not have commanded and the disciples could not have understood,22   Op. cit., 113. is without adequate foundation. Looking forward, as He did, to the joy of the Messianic Feast in the consummated Kingdom,33   Cf. Mk. xiv. 25; Lk. xxii. 18. Jesus might well enjoin the continued celebration of the Supper; and especially if He had attached a new significance to an earlier custom. If, on the night of the Arrest, He desired to associate His disciples with His Messianic suffering, He might well wish that association to be deepened and enriched after His death. It is also 220 too easily assumed that, without any command of His, the Supper would have continued to be celebrated. To say that St. Paul has made explicit what was already implicit, is greatly facilitated because we know the events which followed the death of Jesus. Can we be certain that the idea of repetition would have been found to be implicit, if Jesus had not said: 'Do this in remembrance of me'? Without the word, would the custom have arisen? It may not be possible to answer these questions, but, with some confidence, it may be affirmed that the custom of the primitive Church in breaking bread (cf. Acts. ii. 42) is best understood if it rests on the express word of Jesus. Seductive phrases like 'unconscious aetiological invention', and 'an ex post facto legitimation of a custom', have something of the potency of a spell, but they provide a much less credible explanation of the saying: 'Do this in remembrance of me,' than the view that the words are a genuine utterance of Jesus.

Our conclusion, then, is that, in recording the sayings which command the continued observance of the Supper, St. Paul has preserved an original element in the tradition not mentioned by the Synoptists. If this view is accepted, it enlarges our conception of what Jesus had in mind in instituting the Supper. He not only intended His disciples to share in the power of His self-offering on the night of the Arrest; He meant them to continue so to do. In breaking bread and in drinking the cup they were to bring Him and His Messianic work powerfully to mind until He should come with power and great glory. This is a thought of Jesus which St. Paul has truly expressed when he writes: 'For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come' (1 Cor. xi. 26).

In view of the importance of St. Paul's account, it is 221 necessary to examine his interpretation of the significance and meaning of the Supper. Such an inquiry ought to throw light on the question whether his narrative is influenced by his doctrinal views; it ought also to help us to interpret the Supper itself and the meaning it had for Jesus.

There can be no doubt that St. Paul's thought is sacramental In the sense that he regards material things as means for the manifestation and appropriation of spiritual realities. This is true of his doctrine of the Person of Christ, of his conception of the Church as the Body of Christ, and of his description of the individual Christian, and of the Church, as the temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. iii. 16f., vi. 19f.). But this aspect of his thought is especially evident in his treatment of Baptism and of the Lord's Supper. The fathers of the Jewish Church were 'baptized into Moses' by their experiences in the wilderness and at the Red Sea (1 Cor. x. 2), and the Christian believer is 'baptized into Christ', and therefore 'into his death' (Rom. vi. 3). 'We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life' (Rom. vi. 4). This teaching does not mean that, as a rite, and apart from moral and spiritual factors, Baptism effects spiritual benefits: such a deduction would be a complete perversion of Pauline thought, with its strong emphasis upon the ethical element in the idea of faith-union with Christ.11   Neither baptism nor the Lord's Supper is regarded as of magical effect. In every case it is God's grace that is decisive,' A. Deissmann, St. Paul, 131. None the less, it does imply that Baptism is both an opportunity and a means of establishing a spiritual relationship with Christ.


St. Paul's views regarding the Supper can be inferred from 1 Cor. x. 1-4, 14-22, and xi. 20-34.

The first of these passages is one of warning based upon the experiences of the Israelites in the wilderness who, in spite of the highest privileges, became idolaters, fornicators, and murmurers against God. It is in this context that he speaks of the manna as 'spiritual meat' and of the water obtained from the rock as 'spiritual drink' (x. 3f); in a mystical sense he can even declare that 'the rock was Christ' (x. 4). There can be no doubt that he is thinking in terms suggested by the Eucharist, and, if this is so, it is natural to infer that he thought of the bread and the wine as spiritual meat and drink, and of the Eucharist as in a true sense mediating Christ to the believer. Just as clearly it must be inferred that he did not think of it as a mechanical means of grace. 'Now these things happened unto them by way of example,' he says of the privileged Israelites, 'and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come' (x. 11).

The second section, 1 Cor. x. 14-22, is more explicit. Once more it is a warning against idolatry. St. Paul does not believe that an idol is anything, but he does believe that in eating things sacrificed to idols the Corinthians incur the danger of entering into communion with evil powers. 'I would not', he writes, 'that ye should have communion with demons' (x. 20). Strange as it is to the modern mind, this thought is based on ancient conceptions of sacrifice, and, in particular, upon the idea that to eat of the sacrifice is to share in the sacrificial act itself, and therefore to enter into fellowship with spiritual powers. That this view was held by St. Paul himself is clear from his question: 'Behold Israel after the flesh: have not they which eat the sacrifices communion with the altar?' (x. 18). In these words he is thinking, not so 223 much of the altar itself,11   Some commentators take the view that His meaning is that something of the holiness of the altar passes over to them. Cf. Anderson Scott, op. cit., 185; Howard, Abingdon Commentary, 1184. but of the God whose altar it is, and of the offering made thereon. Nothing less than this inference does justice to his words.

In itself, the use of this illustration suggests that St. Paul thinks of the Eucharist as a means of entering into communion with Christ and of sharing in His sacrifice. This conclusion, however, is not left to inference, for he writes: 'The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?' (x. 16). The incidental introduction of this question is worthy of note; it merely prepares the way for the plea that to eat meat sacrificed to idols is spiritually dangerous. The implication is that he is assuming a view of the Eucharist shared equally by his readers and himself. It is inadequate to understand 'communion' (koinwnia) of a fellowship of believers instituted by Christ. This is the secondary idea of the section, suggested in the words: 'seeing that there is one bread, we who are many, are one body' (x. 17, R.V. mg.); but that it is not the main thought is clear when St. Paul sets side by side the Supper and the pagan sacrifice, and says: 'Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons' (x. 21). By communion of the body and blood of Christ St. Paul means a vital relation with Christ Himself as the Crucified Saviour.

The third section, 1 Cor. xi. 20-34, is of even greater interest and importance, because from verses 26-34 it is possible to infer with some confidence what his view of the Eucharist must have been.

When he says: 'As often as ye eat this bread, and drink 224 the cup, ye are proclaiming the Lord's death till he come' (xi. 26), he is thinking of the Eucharist, not merely as publishing the fact of the death, but as making it known for what it is, a work, namely, of reconciliation. He does not say this, it is true, but, in the light of his treatment as a whole, it is impossible to believe that his thought is simply that the acts of eating and drinking recall the circumstances of the original Supper and of the tragic events which followed. It is surely the nature of the death that is in mind and the appropriation of its blessings by men; and since reconciliation is the fundamental conception under which he thinks of the work of Christ,11   Cf. Rom. v. 10f.; 2 Cor. v. 18-20; Col. i. 20-2. it is natural to suppose that it is under this category that the death is proclaimed. The Eucharist, he says, in effect, is an acted sermon;22   Cf. Robertson and Plummer, 249. it is the drama of redemption, in which common physical acts, eating and drinking, represent and provide the opportunity for the spiritual appropriation of that which Christ made possible by His death.

It is just because St. Paul can think so highly of the Eucharist that he feels so keenly the scandal of the Corinthian celebrations, with their divisions, heresies, and shameful disorders. These facts of the situation are in his mind when he speaks of eating the bread, or drinking the cup, 'unworthily'. The disorders ruin the sermon and destroy the drama, so that the death is no longer proclaimed as a work of reconciliation. So strong is his feeling that he declares that 'whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord' (xi. 27). These words are a rhetorical statement unless, in the Apostle's thinking, the bread and the wine are, in some sense, the body and blood of Christ. So necessary is this inference, 225 that reluctance to accept it can only be explained by the fear that one is thereby committed to the view that St. Paul held a doctrine of Transubstantiation. Such a fear is groundless. St. Paul's thinking is poles asunder from the mediaeval belief that the 'substance' of bread and of wine is miraculously transformed into the 'substance' of the body and blood of Christ. What he means is illustrated by his statement that the rock of Kadesh 'was Christ'. The bread and the wine are mystically the body and blood of the Lord, and have this meaning and value because of His word and action (cf. xi. 24f.).

This conception, however, does not represent the whole of St. Paul's thought. He clearly believes that the significance of the Eucharist is ethically conditioned. On the one hand, he does not think that the meaning of the bread and wine is purely a subjective creation on the part of those who participate in the Supper. In his belief, the elements possess a God-given potency. He holds that direct physical ills have fallen upon the Corinthian Christians because they have received them unworthily. 'For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep' (xi. 30). To the modern mind this is a sub-Christian belief which conceives the Eucharist in magical terms, although few would deny that to participate in the Eucharist unworthily, in a wrong ethical and religious spirit, is to expose oneself to the divine condemnation. We prefer, that is to say, to use abstract expressions, or at least to leave 'the divine judgment' undefined, whereas St. Paul prefers to speak definitely and concretely. Be this as it may, St. Paul's language implies that he did not think the significance of the elements to be one which exists only in the mind of the recipient; their value and meaning are determined by God.

On the other hand, it is equally clear that he cannot 226 have thought of the bread and the wine as the body and the blood of Christ, apart from the spiritual attitude and intellectual apprehension of the participant. That he attached the greatest importance to these conditions is obvious from his solemn exhortation: 'Let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup' (xi. 28). The divisions, schisms, and ostentatious actions of the Corinthian Christians are undoubtedly in his mind as he writes these words, and it may be inferred that by a 'worthy' participation he means one that is marked by the spirit of unity, of humility, and of love. But the question also arises whether, along with these spiritual qualities, an intellectual grasp of what the Eucharist means, must not be included; for St. Paul continues: Tor he that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself, if he judge not rightly the body' (me diakrinwn to swma).11   These words are a well-known crux interpretum. If by 'he that eateth, &c.', St. Paul means one who eats 'unworthily', the participle is causal: 'because he does not judge rightly the body'; but if, as is more probable, in view of verse 28, he is speaking generally, it is conditional: 'if he does not judge rightly.' The rendering 'judge rightly' is better than 'discern' or 'discriminate', in the light of the meaning of diakrinw in verse 31. Some commentators have supposed that, by 'the body', the Church is meant,22   Cf. Anderson Scott, op. cit., 189. but, in the absence of some clearer indication of a change of reference, it is much more probable that the term has the same meaning which it bears in the immediate context in verse 27. The 'body' is that of the Crucified Lord symbolized by the broken bread.33   '...the sacred body, into communion with which he enters by partaking of the Supper, and respecting which, therefore, he ought to form a judgment of the most careful kind, such as may bring him into full and deep consciousness of its sacredness and saving significance,' H. A. W. Meyer, 349. The words indicate that the proving, of which verse 28 speaks, has 227 an intellectual as well as a moral character. The man is not only to examine his motives and his conduct, but also whether he has perceived what is involved in eating the bread and in drinking the cup. The implication is that it is upon this kind of self-examination that the opportunity presented to him in the Eucharist depends; only so are the bread and the wine the body and the blood of Christ to him. St. Paul's view is that the blessings of the Eucharist are received, neither ex opere operato nor merely by the exercise of faith, but by the power of God under moral and intellectual conditions.

From this study of St. Paul's thought it appears that, if allowance is made for the fact that he is dealing with an actual situation in the course of his ministry, the ideas are, substantially, those which are implicit in the narrative of Mk. xiv. 22-5, where Jesus, both by His actions and His words, institutes the Supper as a means whereby His disciples may share in the power of His surrendered life and anticipate the joy of the perfected Kingdom.11   Cf. pp. 124f, 138. It is surprising, in view of his strong eschatological expectations, that St. Paul does not give fuller consideration to the relationship of the Supper to the hope of the Parousia. A reference to this relationship appears in his words: "Ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come' (xi. 26), but it is not developed further. The explanation is doubtless to be found in the fact that he is not directly unfolding his eucharistic beliefs, but is dealing only with the points which concern a definite situation. In his treatment, however, he fixes upon what is most fundamental, the relation, namely, in which the Eucharist stands to the sacrifice of Jesus and to the appropriation of its blessings by the believer. In this vital conception the teaching of Jesus and of St. Paul is the same.


A noteworthy feature of I Cor. xi. 23-5 is the objectivity of the account of the Supper. In the three sections which have been examined St. Paul expresses thoughts which can legitimately be based on the narrative, but he does not introduce them into the story itself. How easy it would have been to give a description of the original Supper enriched by his own experience and by that of the Church! In point of fact, he does not do this to any marked degree. If the phrase, 'which is for you,' attached to the words, 'This is my body,' is an expansion, it is, as we have urged, an addition which only brings out what is already implied. We have claimed that the words regarding the repetition of the rite are original; but, even if this view is not accepted, the phrases are not Pauline inventions and only express what already was generally believed. A study, then, of St. Paul's doctrine of the Eucharist throws into strong relief the fidelity with which he records the original tradition.

The character of the narrative bears on the question raised by the frequent assertion that the sacramental element in early Christian tradition is the creation of St. Paul who was deeply influenced by pagan Mystery-conceptions. This issue, however, is of such importance that it must be treated more broadly.

The assertion gains plausibility by exploiting the similarities between the Eucharist and such traces as exist of sacred meals in connexion with the Mystery-religions, and by passing lightly over the distinctive elements in St. Paul's teaching. The well-known invitation: 'Chaeremon requests your company at dinner at the table of the Lord Sarapis in the Serapaeum to-morrow, the 15th, at 9 o'clock,'11   Cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament 365. tells us very little about the character of the feast in question; and this is still more true of the formula 229 handed down by Firmicus Maternus: 'I have eaten out of the tumpanon, I have drunk out of the kumbalon, I have become an initiate of Attis.'11   Cf. H. A. A. Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mystery-Religions, 256. A credible account of the manner in which the alleged influences can have developed St. Paul's teaching, has yet to be supplied. Meantime, it is important to observe that to the Apostle the Eucharist is neither an initiation ceremony, nor a rite of deification, nor a simple memorial feast to the departed. Its closer affinities indeed are Jewish. It is notable that in I Cor. x., xi., all the illustrations, apart from that of eating in an idol's temple, which is prompted by the circumstances of the readers, are drawn from the Old Testament. Further, St. Paul's teaching throughout moves in personal and spiritual realms. For him the bread and the wine are not so much 'food for the soul' as media for participating in a redeeming activity. The end in view is fellowship with a Saviour and a sharing in His sacrifice. Finally, as we have seen, the ethical and social virtues are strongly emphasized. Where these are actively present, the Eucharist becomes what it is meant to be: otherwise, it is an instrument of condemnation. This feature alone is enough to discourage the hypothesis of pagan borrowing. Added to the characteristics already mentioned, it stamps the idea of the rite as a unique and original conception, into the significance of which St. Paul was permitted to see more deeply than any other New Testament writer, but which owes its origin to Jesus Christ Himself.

« Prev III Next »

| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |