The Problem With The Observance Of The Lord’s Supper In The Corinthian Church -- By: Barry D. Smith

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 20:4 (NA 2010)
Article: The Problem With The Observance Of The Lord’s Supper In The Corinthian Church
Author: Barry D. Smith

The Problem With The Observance Of The Lord’s Supper In The Corinthian Church

Barry D. Smith

Crandall University

The defining characteristic of the σχίσματα in 1 Cor 11 is most likely socioeconomic. What is not so clear, however, is what exactly transpires during the Lord’s Supper that leads to the humiliation of the poor members present. There are five hypotheses that reconstruct the details of how the wealthy humiliate their social inferiors; these can be called the sequential-sponsored, sequential-potluck, inhospitable, private-meal, and eranos hypotheses. In order to determine which of these five hypotheses is the most historically accurate, six interrelated questions must be answered. These questions are: (1) Does an ordinary meal (Sättigungsmahl) separate the Brotritus (bread rite) and the Kelchritus (cup rite) from each other? (2) Are the “have-nots” expected to bring their own food and drink to the Lord’s Supper? (3) To whom does ἕκαστος refer in 11:21? (4) What does the verb προλαμβάνει in 11:21 mean, and what does Paul mean by his admonition συνερχόμενοι εἰς τὸ φαγεῖν ἀλλήλους ἐκδέχεσθε? (5) What gives τὸ ἴδιον δεῖπνον consumed by ἕκαστος its character as ἴδιον, and how does τὸ ἴδιον δεῖπνον differ from κυριακὸν δεῖπνον? (6) Do the wealthy and the poor eat from a different menu? The responses to these questions collectively represent a reconstruction of how it happens that in the Corinthian church the wealthy consume more food and wine than the poor, thereby humiliating the latter. The most convincing hypothesis turns out to be the sequential-sponsored hypothesis.

Key Words: Lord’s Supper, Paul, Corinthians


The errant nature of the Corinthians’ observance of the Lord’s Supper consists in the humiliation of one group by another through the inequitable consumption of food and drink. Paul writes that, when the Corinthians meet together, it is not for the better but for the worse (11:17). In explanation of this, he says that he has heard that there are divisions (σχίσματα) among them. What Paul has in mind is a separation between those who have more than enough to eat and...

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