Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Background to the Lord's Supper

The earliest evidence for celebration of the Lord's Supper comes from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. It is clear that the Eucharist celebration takes place in the context of a meal.

The meal was likely celebrated in the dining room of a private home. Disciples of Christ Minister and New Testament scholar Dennis Smith believes that the Christian meal followed the pattern of the Greek/Roman banquet. Such a meal had two courses:
1. the deipnon - the meal itself
2. the symposium - an extended wine drinking session accompanied by entertainment

One of the many problems at Corinth was centered around this gathering. Hear Paul's rebuke to the Corinthian community: "When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's Supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk" (1 Corinthians 11:21)

For a look at more details around the banquet, see Smith's book From Symposium to Eucharist. You can preview the section on Corinth at Google books.

1 comment:

jakemaxwel said...

Wow! And all I wanted was an explanation for why they ate from a reclining position! I still cannot understand how one could spend 3 hours comfortably reclining at table, even with piles and piles of pillows. I guess I am too conditioned to table and chair. The suggestion that it could have started with tent dwellers does make sense, I suppose. And certainly the reclining requires the luxury of having others to serve you
I think it is interesting he noted the Eucharist as separate from a meal in any real sense is fascinating. It pretty much limits it to a purely symbolic practice. For me one of the most meaningful times for receiving communion at Hillside has been when tables of myriad breads were set about and we all ate from them at our leisure. Even though we no longer pass around those little plastic cups and the dense little wafers, we still are a long way from the symposium and the koinonia that we should be experiencing. It is amazing that some of us spend our energies debating whether the Eucharist actually becomes the flesh and blood of Christ while at the same time eschewing the blessing inherent in sharing with our community.
Hmmm! Lots of food for thought! (Pardon me; I couldn't resist.)