1Corinthians 11:17-34

Jul 19, 2012

1Cor 11.17-34.pdf

As usual, the structural outline can largely speak for itself, including various associations with the New Covenant.  I used color coding to help see the parallels. First note the good example of “inclusio” with regard to Paul’s lack of praise for the Corinthian behavior when they come together as a church (no commendation).  The first chiastic structure could also be seen as composed with a third (c./c’) inner term “come together.”  In the “Meaning” section (23-25) it is interesting that, in both parallels between bread and cup, Paul includes the same order:

took bread/cup, then a significant theological term (Eucharist/New Covenant), then body/blood, then “do this in remembrance.”  There is one anomaly though and that is the important “which is for you” (meaning at least “for your sake” but possibly “on your behalf” based on what Paul says later in v27).  It could be that St Paul purposely highlighted this statement of the Lord in this way because he wanted it to stand out for the application to follow.  Within that Significance section there are at least two parallel sub-structures (shown using numbers instead of letters).  Both of these are based on either variations of the Greek root word for judgment or conceptually based judgment parallels.  Note that examination, discerning, and evaluation are all parts and phases of the judgment process, as also are guilty and condemnation. Because it is central and focal in this sub-structure, there is no parallel to help to determine the referent of “body” in v. 29. However, it is quite evident, it is a reference to the church, the body of Christ. This is because Paul does not include any parallel reference to blood with this phrase. The sin of the church was that of divisions and factions (and maybe this sin could have been prevented had they grown in the grace of love). They were guilty in not discerning the body of Christ - a serious sin in light of the New Covenant. Through their factions, they had subverted the the purpose of Christ’s death to make us one with Christ and the Holy Trinity. Of course, the theological basis for the church as the body of Christ is the representative identification between the two as, in fact, one. That is why Paul even brought up the objective tradition concerning Christ’s body and blood. The fact that these divisions were manifested during their covenant meal was a complete denial of the nature of the God’s covenant that made them one. The eucharist is a sharing in this ontological unity with the Holy Trinity. The unity of the church comes through our sacramental participation in Christ through the Spirit. Christ is our paschal lamb and the Lord’s Supper is our foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb. As St. Paul said in 1Cor. 5:7, “our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.” The significance of the bread/body and cup/blood in the Lord’s Supper are summed up by Paul as a proclamation of Christ’s death.  It is not just any death. Rather, it is important to see - it is a sacrificial death. The body and blood are the constituents of a sacrifice, and in particular our paschal sacrifice. Note the footnotes in the text above.

Lastly, note that when Paul began this pericope, he said “first” (v. 18) as if he was going to address several issues.  He didn’t forget this, so he ends the pericope with a mention of other (probably negative) issues he decided to address when he comes in person.  The Lord’s Supper was too important to wait.  Note that although the explicit sin of the Corinthians was divisions/factions, the implicit sin was their lack of love (and this is also observed at several points in this letter). We who partake on the holy mysteries in this day should always critically evaluate ourselves in terms of what we are doing as participants and thus how we relate to Christ and his body the church!