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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
1 Corinthians 11



Other Authors
Verse 1

1 Corinthians 11:1. This verse belongs to the former chapter, and concludes the argument, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 4:16.

Verse 2

2. ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς. There is no contradiction between this verse and 1 Corinthians 11:17. The ordinances which St Paul had delivered to the Corinthians had on the whole been faithfully kept; but the principles of Christian liberty and Christian brotherhood had been, in some instances, unsatisfactorily carried out. He therefore proceeds to give other ordinances on matters which required immediate attention, leaving (1 Corinthians 11:34) those of less pressing importance till he himself arrived at Corinth. But he takes care to begin in a conciliatory manner. The ordinances of the present chapter relate [1] to the conduct of women in the public assemblies, and [2] to the Lord’s Supper.

πάντα must be taken adverbially, as μέμνημαι does not take an accusative in N.T.

καθὼς παρέδωκα ὑμῖν. ‘Large principles, when taken up by ardent and enthusiastic minds, without the modifications learnt by experience, are almost sure to run into extravagances, and hence the spirit of law is by degrees reduced to rules, and guarded by customs.’—Robertson, Lect. XXI. on 1st Ep. to Corinthians. The whole lecture is extremely valuable.

παραδόσεις. This word is translated indiscriminately by traditions or ordinances in the A.V. Its original meaning is things delivered, either orally or by written communication. Tradition, it should be remembered, means properly nothing more than what is delivered or handed over, though the idea of handing down is of course not excluded in all cases. Here, however, the idea of handing down cannot, of course, find a place. St Paul is speaking of the rules he himself had given for the government of the Church. These ‘traditions,’ or rather, ‘ordinances,’ were of three kinds: [1] regulations for the government of the Church, as here and in 2 Thessalonians 3:6; [2] statements concerning doctrine, as 2 Thessalonians 2:15; or [3] concerning fact, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 11:23, 1 Corinthians 15:3, which are spoken of as having been ‘delivered’ by the Apostle. The doctrines of the Rabbis are spoken of as ‘traditions’ in Matthew 15:2; Galatians 1:14.

Verses 2-16


Verse 3

3. θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι. According to St Paul’s invariable rule, the question is argued and settled upon the first principles of the Christian Revelation. ‘Order is heaven’s first law.’ And no assembly of Christians is rightly constituted where this principle is put out of sight.

κεφαλή. ‘In the idea of this word dominion is especially expressed. As in the human organization the exercise of dominion over all the members proceeds from the head; so in the family, from man; in the Church, from Christ; in the universe, from God.’ Olshausen.

ὁ Χριστός. See Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:19. As the head directs the body, so ought every member of Christ’s Body to be governed and directed by Christ.

κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ. Cf. Ephesians 5:23. ‘It appears that the Christian women at Corinth claimed for themselves equality with the male sex, to which the doctrine of Christian freedom and the removal of the distinction of sex in Christ (Galatians 3:28) gave occasion. Christianity had indisputably done much for the emancipation of women, who in the East and among the Ionic Greeks (it was otherwise among the Dorians and the Romans) were in a position of unworthy dependence. But this was done in a quiet, not an over-hasty manner. In Corinth, on the contrary, they had apparently taken up the matter in a fashion somewhat too animated. The women overstepped due bounds by coming forward to pray and prophesy in the assemblies with uncovered head.’ De Wette. Such persons are here reminded that according to God’s word (Genesis 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:12-13) woman was designed to be in subjection, both in society and in the family. Of this last, woman’s chief sphere, man was, by God’s ordinance, the head. Yet (see below, 1 Corinthians 11:5) she is on an equality with man in her individual relation to Christ.

κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός. The whole universe is one system of orderly gradation from God downwards. Even Christ is no exception to the rule. The Eternal Son derives His Being from the Eternal Father, and in His equality still does not reject subordination. Cf. John 14:28, also ch. 1 Corinthians 3:23, and 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. The Apostle proceeds to shew that nature and revelation alike proclaim the principle, which should therefore find expression in the assemblies of the Christian Church.

Verse 4

4. πᾶς ἀνὴρ προσευχόμενος. We have two propositions in this and the following verse: the first concerning the man, the second concerning the woman. ‘It was the custom of the Jews that they prayed not, unless first their head were veiled, and that for this reason; that by this rite they might shew themselves reverent and ashamed before God, and unworthy with an open face to behold Him.’ Lightfoot. He quotes many passages from the Rabbis, of which one from Maimonides may suffice. ‘Let not the Wise Men, nor the scholars of the Wise Men pray, unless they be covered.’ This veil was called the Tallith. Grotius (see Alford in loc.) gives many details about the custom of heathen nations. Among the Greeks slaves were covered, and the uncovered head was a sign of freedom. Among the Romans, on the contrary, the opposite custom prevailed. The freeman wore the pileus; the slave wore nothing on his head. When he was emancipated, he was said ‘vocari ad pileum.’ So the Romans and Germans used to pray veiled, from the same motive as the Jews, while the Greeks were accustomed to perform their sacred rites unveiled (though St Chrysostom asserts the contrary of this). But the Christian custom was not, as Meyer seems to think, due to the Hellenic custom being followed in the Hellenic churches, but is rather to be explained by this passage, and by 2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 3:18. The Christian no longer approaches God weighed down by shame and sin. It is his privilege to gaze undazzled on the glory of God with face unveiled, since he is ‘no longer a servant, but a son,’ Galatians 4:7. ‘Capite nudo, quia non erubescimus,’ Tertullian, Apology, ch. 30. ‘The question here is of a veil, not of a hat.’ De Wette. But the effect of St Paul’s decision has been in the Christian Church to do away with the custom of uncovering the feet and allowing the head to remain covered (Exodus 3:5), which is still in existence among the Jews and Mohammedans. For prophesying, see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 14:1.

κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχων. Supply τι. And see Winer Gr. Gram. p. 477.

καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλήν. Not Christ, as some commentators have supposed. The Apostle’s drift is as follows: The appearance of the Christian assembly should bear witness to the Divine order. Man, the highest visible being, bearing witness by his attire that he has no visible superior; woman witnessing by her attire, her subordination to man.

Verse 5

5. πᾶσα δὲ γυνή. This refers, of course, to the public assemblies of the Church, where the woman appears, not in her individual character, but as the member of a community. She must therefore perform her devotions in this latter character, and her attire must bear witness to the fact that she is subordinate to those of the other sex in whose presence she worships. Alone, of course, or in the presence of her own sex only, she has the same privilege of approaching God unveiled, that man has. So says Dean Colet, ‘in feminarum ecclesia nihil impedit feminae prophetent[138].’ Some difficulty has been raised about the words ‘or prophesieth.’ It has been thought that the woman was here permitted to prophesy, i.e. in smaller assemblies, and that the prohibitions in ch. 1 Corinthians 14:34, and 1 Timothy 2:12, referred to the more general gatherings of the Church. The subject is one of some difficulty (see Acts 2:18; Acts 21:9), but it is perhaps best, with De Wette and Calvin (who says, ‘Apostolum hic unum improbando alterum non probare’) to suppose that the Apostle blames only the praying in public with uncovered head, and reserves his blame of the prophesying for ch. 1 Corinthians 14:34. As for the prophetic gifts of the daughters of Philip the evangelist, Acts 21:9, they were probably reserved for assemblies of their own sex.

ἀκατακαλύπτῳ τῇ κεφαλῇ, i.e. without the peplum or shawl, which (see Art. Peplum in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities, and Dean Stanley’s note), used ordinarily as a covering for the body, was on public occasions thrown over the head also. In Oriental countries, however, the women wore, and still wear, a veil.

καταισχύνει τὴν κεφαλήν. ‘As the man honours his head by proclaiming his liberty, so the woman by acknowledging her subjection.’ Calvin. Cf. Numbers 5:18.

τὸ αὐτό. The same thing as.

τῇ ἐξυρημένῃ. The shaven (woman), the article denoting the class to which such a woman belonged.

Verse 6

6. εἰ γὰρ οὐ. A question has been raised why we have οὐ here rather than μή. The answer is that οὐ refers to a state of things which, as we learn from the whole passage, was actually occurring.

κείρασθαι ἢ ξυρᾶσθαι. Shorn or shaven, the latter being stronger than the former. The first signifies strictly to have the hair cropped close, the second to shaving with a razor. ‘Plus est radi quam tonderi.’ Grotius. See also the LXX. in Micah 1:16. Phrynichus, Ecloga, thus speaks of the word: καρῆναι φασίν, καὶ εἶναι τοῦτο πρὸς τὸ κείρασθαι διαφοράν. τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἐπὶ προβάτων τιθέασι, καὶ ἀτίμου κουρᾶς, κείρασθαι δὲ ἐπὶ ἀνθρώπων· ὃ δεῖ φυλάττειν. For ξυράω (for the earlier classical form ξυρέω), cf. Soph. Aj. 786 ξυρεῖ γὰρ ἐν χρῷ, ‘it comes close home.’

Verse 7

7. ἀνὴρ μέν. The Apostle now gives reasons for what he has just said. His first argument is that to appear uncovered in the congregation denotes the having no visible superior there. But woman has a visible superior, namely, man. To this fact, when she appears in public, her very dress should testify. See also 1 Corinthians 11:10.

εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ. Additional reason for the Apostle’s directions. Man is God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 5:1; Genesis 9:2; Genesis 9:6), inasmuch as he is the highest of all living beings in the visible world. His glory, i.e. the manifestation or representation of His glory, on account of the dominion over all things in the world committed to him (Genesis 1:26; Genesis 1:28; Genesis 3:16). As he is thus a visible representation of God, he is not to veil his head, the noblest part of his body, in the public worship of the Church.

γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἀνδρός. Woman is not the manifestation or representation of the glory of God on earth, inasmuch as she is subject to man, and therefore cannot properly represent Him Who has no superior. But to all inferior beings she represents and is scarcely distinguishable from man, and therefore manifests and shares his superiority; reflects it, as the moon does the light of the sun, to use (and it may be said, to complete) the simile of Grotius here. See Alford’s note.

Verse 8

8. οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀνὴρ ἐκ γυναικός. For man is not from woman. Second argument, drawn from the creation of mankind. The narrative in the book of Genesis establishes two facts, [1] that woman had her being originally through man, and not, as man, directly from God; and [2] that she was created for man’s advantage, and not man for hers. Not that we are to suppose, with some, that woman is in no sense to be regarded as the image and glory of God, but that man is so immediately, she mediately, through man.

Verse 9

9. καὶ γάρ. For also. This introduces a third argument.

Verse 10

10. ἐξουσίαν. That is, as in the margin of our version, ‘a covering in sign that she is under the power (or rather authority, see below) of her husband.’ Fourth argument, drawn from the presence of the angels at Christian worship. The word translated power here is rather, the right to exercise power, authority, as in Matthew 10:1; Luke 4:36, &c. Hence it has been suggested in the notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 8:9, 1 Corinthians 9:4, that it has sometimes, though not here, the signification of right. In this place the abstract is put for the concrete, the authority itself for the token of being under authority. For an instance of the use of the veil in this way we may refer to Genesis 24:65, where Rebekah veils herself in token of submission, as soon as she comes into the presence of her husband. We are not to exclude the idea of feminine modesty, but to regard it as included in the idea of being under authority, of which modesty is a kind of natural acknowledgment. Neither are we to confine the idea to married persons, as the margin of our Version does, but to regard it as applying to the mutual relations of the sexes generally. The passage has sorely perplexed the commentators. The various explanations of it may be found in Stanley and Alford in loc.

διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους. This passage has also been explained in various ways (see the commentators just mentioned). It is best on the whole to regard it as an intimation that the angels, though invisible, were fellow-worshippers with men in the Christian assemblies, and were therefore ‘spectators of the indecency,’ and liable to be offended thereat. ‘When therefore the women usurp the symbol of dominion, against what is right and lawful, they make their shameful conduct conspicuous’ in the eyes of the messengers of God. Thus Calvin. Erasmus paraphrases it well: ‘If a woman has arrived at that pitch of shamelessness that she does not fear the eyes of men, let her at least cover her head on account of the angels, who are present at your assemblies.’ For some remarkable Oriental illustrations of the interpretation that evil angels are here meant, see Dean Stanley on this verse. Meyer gives a list of authorities to shew that the belief in the presence of angels at Divine worship was common among the Jews.

Verse 11

11. πλὴν οὔτεἀνήρ. ‘St Paul’s teaching from 1 Corinthians 11:7 onward might possibly be misinterpreted by the men so as to lead them to despise the women, and by the women so as to lead them to underrate their own position.’ Meyer. He goes on, however, to treat the passage as referring chiefly to married persons, whereas it refers to the two sexes in general, as constituent parts of the Christian community, each having its own peculiar excellencies and special gifts, every one of which is necessary to the perfection of human society. We may remark how in Christ alone were the various qualities of humanity so blended that He united in Himself the perfections of the masculine and feminine characters.

Verse 12

12. ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρός, i.e. by creation and generation (Genesis 2:22).

διὰ τῆς γυναικός. By birth.

ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ. We are not to dwell too much on the intermediate links in the chain of causation, but to remember that all human beings come from God and exist by His ordinance, and that therefore each has his own rights as well as duties, which cannot be neglected without injury to the Divine order of this world.

Verses 13-15

13–15. ἐν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς κρίνατε. Fifth argument. An appeal is now made to our natural feeling of what is proper and becoming. Man, as his sphere is the world, and as he is the highest of God’s creatures in it, needs no covering to hide him from the gaze of others. Woman, as her sphere is the home, and as being, whether married or unmarried, under the dominion of man, receives of God’s providence the covering of her long hair, whereby she may veil herself from the gaze of those who are not her natural protectors.

πρέπον. Decet, Vulgate. Bisemeth it? Wiclif. Our Version follows Tyndale here, and is equivalent in our modern language to Is it proper? Is it becoming? ‘It is impossible,’ remarks Robertson, ‘to decide how much of our public morality and private purity is owing to the spirit which refuses to overstep the smallest bound of ordinary decorum.’ And again, ‘Whatever contradicts feelings which are universally received,’ that is ‘in questions of morality, propriety, and decency,’ ‘is questionable, to say the least.’ There may be occasions on which it may be our duty to overstep those boundaries, but [1] if done, it must be done after careful consideration, and [2] for objects which are clearly sufficient to justify it.

Verse 14

14. ἡ φύσις. This argument from nature must not be pressed too far. St Paul is speaking of the natural sense of what is fitting in those whom he addressed. In early times the Greeks and the Romans wore long hair, and the Gauls and Germans did so in St Paul’s own time. So Homer continually speaks of the ‘long-haired Greeks.’ St Chrysostom remarks that those who addicted themselves to philosophy in his day wore their hair long. But this was mere affectation. Cf. Horace, De Arte Poetica, 297,

‘Bona pars non ungues ponere curat,

Non barbam, secreta petit loca, balnea vitat.’

But the general verdict of society has been that appealed to by the Apostle. ‘This instinctive consciousness of propriety on this point had been established by custom, and had become φύσις (nature).’ Meyer.

Verse 15

15. δόξα. The true glory of every creature of God is to fulfil the law of its being. Whatever helps woman to discharge the duties of modesty and submissiveness assigned to her by God is a glory to her.

ἀντὶ περιβολαίου. Literally, something flung around the body. It is worthy of remark that the Vestal Virgins at Rome wore their hair short, or confined by a fillet. They may, however, have been regarded as protected by their sacred character.

Verse 16

16. εἰ δέ τις. Not ‘any man’ as A.V., but ‘any one,’ a material difference. The Apostle had special reason to apprehend difficulties on this point. See 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Corinthians 14:38, and notes. Thus it would be better to apply the words to what follows, rather than with some commentators, to what has gone before. The Apostle would deprecate further argument, and appeal to the custom of the Churches as decisive on a point of this kind.

δοκεῖ. Thinks fit, not seemeth, as A.V.

φιλόνεικος. Admirably translated contentious in A.V., implying that pleasure is taken in strife for its own sake.

ἡμεῖς. Emphatic. If he like to be contentious, let him be so. It is quite sufficient for us who desire to live in peace that the custom of the Churches is otherwise.

συνήθειαν. See note on 1 Corinthians 8:7. The word has been interpreted [1] as referring to contention, ‘it is not our custom to be contentious,’ or [2] to the practice of permitting women to appear unveiled at the services of the Church. The latter yields the best sense. This appeal to the Churches must not be understood to imply that all Churches ought in all respects to have the same customs. But in a matter such as this, involving the position of women in Christian society, and their reputation in the world at large—a matter of no small importance—it were far wiser for the Corinthian Church to follow the universal practice of Christendom.

Verse 17

17. τοῦτο δὲ παραγγέλλων. As R.V., In giving you this charge. St Paul was able to praise the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:2) for their attention to the injunctions he had given them. He could not praise them for their irregularities in a matter on which their Christian instincts ought to have enlightened them. The disorders at the administration of the Eucharist were such as ought not to have needed correction. τοῦτο refers to what follows. See 1 Corinthians 11:22.

εἰς τὸ κρεῖσσονεἰς τὸ ἧσσον. Literally, unto the better and unto the worse, i.e. they were the worse, not the better, for meeting together for worship.

Verses 17-34


Verse 18

18. πρῶτον μὲν γάρ. Either [1] we must take this to apply to this and the next verse, and the second cause of blame to commence with 1 Corinthians 11:20, or [2] we must regard it as applying to the whole of this chapter, and then the next cause of blame will be the abuse of spiritual gifts, which is treated of in chapters 12–14. The latter is the more probable, for many of the commentators seem to have been misled by the technical theological sense which was attached to the words schism and heresy in later ages, a sense which is clearly unknown to the Apostle. The divisions of which the Apostle speaks seem to have been social and personal rather than theological or ecclesiastical. See note on 1 Corinthians 11:21.

ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ. Not the building, for there were no churches in the sense of buildings devoted to Christian worship then, but in the assembly. For the omission of the article, see note on 1 Corinthians 14:4.

σχίσματα. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:10. St John uses the word in the sense of a difference of opinion (John 7:43, John 9:16, John 10:19), and here it is obvious that no formal separation into different bodies took place (see ch. 1 Corinthians 12:25, as well as last note). The sense here is rather that of the ‘little rift within the lute’ which makes harmonious co-operation impossible.

Verse 19

19. δεῖ γὰρ καὶ αἱρέσεις. The turn of the sentence distinguishes αἱρέσεις from σχίσματα. The word αἵρεσις is variously translated in the A.V. It differs from the προαίρεσις of Aristotle (see Nic. Eth. III. ch. 2) in implying less of preference and more of choice, less of reason and more of self-will. The expressions αἵρεσις τῶν Φαρισαίων, Σαδδουκαίων, Ναζωραίων, have more of the signification of our ‘High Church,’ ‘Broad Church’ and ‘Low Church party’ than the idea of sect, as suggested by the A.V., or innovation in doctrine, as in the later theological sense of the word. See Acts 5:17; Galatians 5:20; 1 Timothy 4:1, &c. Cf. also Acts 20:29-30. αἵρεσις signifies the temper of mind which produces σχίσματα, the disposition to think and act to please oneself rather than for the edification of the many.

ἵνα. Here we must render in order that, as though God had permitted these evils to arise in order to test the faith and patience of Christian men. Cf. James 1:3; 1 Peter 1:6-7.

οἱ δόκιμοι. Those who have been tried and stood the test. Opposed to ἀδόκιμοι, rejected. See James 1:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5-7, and ch. 1 Corinthians 9:27.

Verse 20

20. οὖν. Meyer points out that this word, coupled with the marked repetition of συνερχομένων, proves that the πρῶτον μέν of 1 Corinthians 11:18 refers to the disorders in the Christian assembly.

ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό. Literally, to (or at) the same place. See Acts 1:15; Acts 2:1, and ch. 1 Corinthians 7:5 of this Epistle. It is the only phrase which we find applied to the place of the Christian assembly. See note on 1 Corinthians 11:18.

οὐκ ἔστιν κυριακὸν δεῖπνον φαγεῖν. This is not to eat a supper of the Lord’s institution. That the intention of the worshippers was to celebrate the Eucharist is incontrovertible from what follows. But that the Corinthians violated the whole spirit of Christ’s institution is no less evident. As Chrysostom forcibly says τὸ γὰρ κυριακὸν ἰδιωτικὸν ποιοῦσι. ‘Every one takes his own supper,’ and thus the intent of the common meal which was to draw men together in mutual love and self-forgetfulness, was frustrated. See note on 1 Corinthians 11:22. The absence of the article here, compared with its presence in Revelation 1:10, confirms the rendering here. ‘The question arose,’ says Dean Stanley, ‘whether the majesty, the tenderness, the awe of the feast should be lost in a senseless orgy.’

Verse 21

21. τὸ ἴδιον δεῖπνον. ‘It is not the Lord’s Supper, but your own that you eat. Jesus Christ established a Supper with a solemn celebration of His Death, as at once a symbol of the unity of those who believed in Him, and a means of effecting that unity. By the course you are pursuing you are defeating His purpose, and evacuating the ceremony He has instituted of all its meaning.’

προλαμβάνει. The whole idea of a common meal was thus set aside. The members of the Church not only did not share their provisions together, but they did not eat them at the same time.

ἐν τῷ φαγεῖν. For in the eating, i. e. when ye eat. Every passage relating to the Eucharist in the N. T. leads to the conclusion that it took place at the end of a social meal, such as the Last Supper itself. See Acts 2:42; Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; Acts 20:11. That supper in early Christian times was called the Agapè, or feast of love, and was like the ἔρανος of the Greeks, to which, very frequently, each brought his own portion. See Art. Erani in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities. The divisions among the Corinthian Christians (1 Corinthians 11:18) were of the kind which we are accustomed to denominate ‘sets’ in a small society,—cliques and coteries, which were the product, not so much of theological, as of social antagonism. Thus the members of the Corinthian Church were accustomed to share their provisions with members of their own ‘set,’ to the exclusion of those who, having an inferior social position, had few provisions, or none, to bring. Hence while one was only too well provided with food, another had little or none.

ὃς δὲ μεθύει. We have no right, with some commentators, to soften down the force of this word, as though no such abominations were possible at Corinth. The permeation of the Christian community by the Spirit of Christ (see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 5:1) was a more gradual process than is generally supposed. The wine could hardly have been unfermented.

Verse 22

22. μὴ γὰρ οἰκίας οὐκ ἔχετε. The force of this construction is most nearly represented by for you do not mean to say that you have no houses to eat and drink in, unless with some we regard γάρ in the light of an exclamation, as we find it translated in the A.V. of John 9:30.

εἰς τὸ ἐσθίειν καὶ πίνειν. If all you came together for were to satisfy your own hunger, you might just as well eat and drink at home. But the Lord’s Supper was instituted for a threefold purpose. It was [1] intended to bind Christian people together in mutual love (see Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-35), [2] it was designed as the solemn commemoration of the great Act of Love whereby Jesus Christ offered Himself upon the Cross for the sins of men (see 1 Corinthians 11:26), and [3] it was the means whereby He fed His people with the ‘spiritual food of His most blessed Body and Blood.’ See ch. 1 Corinthians 10:15-16.

τῆς ἐκκλησίας τοῦ θεοῦ. The Church called out of the world, or called together (the latter explanation is to be preferred) to be the habitation of God through the Spirit. To introduce into this the petty jealousies and antipathies of human society was to despise the great and glorious Body, in which God was pleased to dwell. See note on 1 Corinthians 11:18.

μὴ ἔχοντας. The Poor, as in the margin of the A.V. Cf. Eurip. Suppl. 240.

ἐν τούτῳ. The A.V. connects these words with what precedes. The text is according to Tischendorf’s punctuation. Translate, shall I praise you? in this I praise you not.

Verse 23

23. ἐγὼ γὰρ παρέλαβον ἀπὸ τοῦ κυρίου. Literally, For I received from the Lord. Reason why St Paul could not praise the Corinthians. Their conduct was a gross profanation of a rite which had been so solemnly instituted by Christ. These words, especially if we notice the emphatic use of the pronoun, seem to imply that St Paul had received from the Risen Lord’s own lips (see ch. 1 Corinthians 9:1 and note) the account of the institution of the Holy Communion which he now gives the Corinthians. He does not say ‘from the disciples of the Lord,’ but ‘from the Lord’ (‘an authentic explanation given by the Risen Christ concerning His Sacrament.’ Olshausen). And it is remarkable that while it differs in some respects from that given by St Matthew and St Mark, this account by St Paul corresponds closely to that found in his friend and disciple St Luke’s narrative. This circumstance is a strong corroboration of the evidence for the authenticity of both Gospel and Acts, for it confirms the evidence we have that both-were written by one closely connected with St Paul. Some have thought that we have here the earliest account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper; but if, with some, we suppose the Gospel of St Matthew to have been in existence by this time, and if, which is very doubtful, we are to regard 2 Corinthians 8:18 (see Collect for St Luke’s Day) as referring to the Gospel of St Luke, that, too, must have been in existence before or about the time when this Epistle was written.

παρεδίδετο. He was being betrayed, i.e. while the scheme for the betrayal was being carried out. Contrast the imperfect here with the aorists in the next verse.

Verse 24

24. εὐχαριστήσας. St Mark has ‘blessed,’ St Matthew, according to some copies, ‘blessed,’ according to others, ‘gave thanks.’ St Luke agrees with St Paul. From this word the sacrament derives its name of Eucharist, or thanksgiving.

εἶπεν. Inasmuch as the words of institution have been the occasion of one of the longest and bitterest controversies that have ever divided the Church of Christ, it is well to inquire very closely what He said. See Critical Note. The words of institution, as recorded by St Paul, are as follows: ‘This is My body, which is [being broken] for you; this do in remembrance of Me,’ i.e. to serve as a memorial of Me, or to preserve My memory. Let us next take St Luke’s account of it, derived either from St Paul or from the same source as his. ‘This is My body, [which is given for you; this do in remembrance of Me.]’ (Westcott and Hort put the latter words in brackets.) St Matthew and St Mark simply give the words, ‘Take, [eat]: this is My body,’ the word ‘eat’ being omitted in St Mark by many of the best MSS.

ἀνάμνησιν. The word here translated ‘remembrance’ signifies [1] the act of recollection, and [2] that which enables us to recollect, reminds us of a thing. In the Septuagint it is used in the heading of the 38th and 70th Psalms as a translation of the Hebrew word signifying ‘to bring to remembrance.’ In Numbers 10:10 the Septuagint uses it [3] to translate a Hebrew word signifying memorial, i.e. some visible and tangible object which exists in order to bring to mind a past event. Cf. Hebrews 10:3. Both [2] and [3] are included here.

Verse 25

25. ὡσαύτως. The words in the original, though translated differently, are precisely the same as those of St Luke, and seem to imply that, according to Jewish practice at the Passover, while the bread was administered at supper, the cup was administered after it. See, however, next note.

λέγων. The literal translation of the words that follow is, This cup is the New Covenant in My Blood; this do whensoever ye may drink it, in remembrance of Me. St Luke gives us the words as follows: ‘This Cup is the New Covenant in My Blood, which is being poured forth for you’ (but the whole verse is bracketed by Westcott and Hort; see Critical Note). St Matthew, ‘Drink ye all of it, for this is My Blood which is of the New Covenant, which is poured forth for many unto the remission of sins’; St Mark, ‘This is My Blood, which is of the [New] Covenant, which is poured forth for many.’ It is obvious that no one report of these important words can be pressed to the exclusion of the rest.

ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη. The new covenant. In Classical Greek διαθήκη has unquestionably the signification testament. It is derived from διατίθημι, to put thoroughly in order, and is used of that complete arrangement of his worldly affairs which a man is accustomed to make in a will. See perhaps for this meaning Hebrews 9:16 (though the question is much debated and the sense ‘covenant’ falls in best with the general drift of the argument). In other places in the N. T. it is used, as in Genesis 9:12 and elsewhere in the LXX., in place of the Hebrew Berith, a covenant or agreement between two parties, one of which sometimes is God. For an example of this sense see Galatians 3:15. Here it would appear to include both senses, for [1] it was a covenant that God entered into with man, and [2] it was Christ’s Death which sealed it.

Verse 26

26. ὁσάκις γὰρ ἐάν. The A.V. somewhat obscures the repetition of these words, by translating ‘oft,’ and ‘often.’ These words are not those of Christ, but of St Paul. John 3:31-36, and Galatians 2:15-21 are somewhat similar instances, but in them it is by no means certain that we have a commentary by the writer on the speech he records, but quite possible that the passage forms part of the speech itself.

τὸν θάνατον τοῦ κυρίου. Because the Sacrament was the appointed memorial of that Death.

καταγγέλλετε. Tell, Wiclif. Annuntiabitis, Calvin and the Vulgate. Annoncerez, De Sacy. Some (e. g. the margin of the English Bible) take this imperatively, but it is better as in the text.

ἄχρις οὗ ἔλθῃ. Until He shall have come. The ἄν of the rec. text is less strongly supported. See Critical Note. And it also is suspicious in that it introduces an element of doubt where St Paul can have had none whatever.

Verse 27

27. ἢ πίνῃ τὸ ποτήριον. Or drink the cup. Many Protestant translators, including those of the A.V., have evaded the force of the or, from a fear lest they should thereby be countenancing the denial of the Cup to the laity. See Alford, Stanley, Meyer, De Wette, who, while rejecting this clearly incorrect rendering, point out that the fear which prompted it was quite needless. Calvin renders boldly by aut; Wiclif and Tyndale by or. See also note on 1 Corinthians 11:25.

ὀναξίως. ‘Not merely,’ says Estius, ‘with a mind distracted by worldly thoughts, though that is not to be commended, but in an irreverent spirit,’ in a frame of mind unsuitable to so solemn an act; without faith in, or a thankful remembrance of, the great mystery therein commemorated; and, above all, in a spirit which regards what is essentially the Supper of the Lord as a supper of one’s own, and therefore as one at which it is lawful to be selfish, or intemperate, or both.

ἔνοχος. This word (Vulg. reus), translated guilty by the A.V. here and in Matthew 26:66, James 2:10, signifies literally dependent on. Hence it comes to signify amenable to the laws, as in Plat. Legg. 869 B πολλοῖς ἔνοχος ἔστω νόμοις ὁ δράσας τι τοιοῦτον. Hence comes the sense liable to some particular punishment. Matthew 5:21-22, and Matthew 26:66 above cited. Cf. Mark 3:29, the punishment taking the gen. after it. Here it means liable to the consequences which flow from despising the Body and Blood of the Lord, just as in James 2:10 it means liable to the consequences which flow from a breach of the law. So to treat the Body and Blood of the Lord, mystically present in this Sacrament, is to treat Him with disrespect, to ‘crucify Him afresh and put Him to an open shame’ (Hebrews 6:6).

Verse 28

28. δοκιμαζέτω. Preve, Wiclif. Probet, Vulgate. That is, test himself, ascertain his own condition (Galatians 6:4). The same word is used of the weather, and of God’s times and seasons (Luke 12:56); of beasts of burden (Luke 14:19); of moral questions (Romans 2:18); of the “Will of God (Romans 12:2); of the action of fire (1 Corinthians 3:13). Sometimes it refers to the results of the process, think fit, approve, as in Romans 1:28; Romans 14:22; 1 Corinthians 16:3. Cf. Aristotle, Nic. Eth. VIII. 4 οὐ γὰρ ῥᾴδιον οὐδενὶ πιστεῦσαι περὶ τοῦ ἐν πολλῷ χρόνῳ ὑπ' αὐτῶν δεδοκιμασμένου. Here it means that the communicant is to institute a scrutiny into his own heart and motives (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5), with a view of ascertaining whether his moral condition be really in keeping with the sacred feast to which he is bidden. See the answer to the question ‘What is required of them who come to the Lord’s Supper?’ in the Church Catechism. Also cf. Judges 1:12.

Verse 29

29. κρίμα. Judgment, as in A.V., margin. Wiclif, dome (as in ch. 1 Corinthians 6:4). Luther, gericht. Vulgate, judicium. ‘The mistranslation in our version has,’ says Dean Alford, ‘done infinite mischief.’ Olshausen reminds us how in Germany a translation (see above) less strong than this, yet interpreted to. mean the same thing, drove Goethe from ‘Church and altar.’ Of what kind the judgment is the next verse explains. That it is not final condemnation that is threatened, 1 Corinthians 11:32 clearly shews (Alford, De Wette). But the word has an unfavourable sense everywhere in N. T. except perhaps Revelation 20:4. It is therefore equivalent to our word ‘condemnation.’ Some MSS. and editors omit ‘unworthily’ here. See Critical Note. It may have been introduced from 1 Corinthians 11:27. If it be omitted, the sense is that he who eats and drinks without discerning (see next note) the Body of Christ, invites an unfavourable judgment on himself. If it be retained, we are to understand that he who partakes unworthily, invites God’s judgment on him because he does not discern the Lord’s Body.

μὴ διακρίνων τὸ σῶμα. Because (or rather almost when) he does not discern the body. μὴ ἐξετάζων, μὴ ἐννοῶν, ὡς χρή, τὸ μέγεθος τῶν προκειμένων, μὴ λογιζόμενος τὸν ὄγκον τῆς δωρεᾶς. Chrysostom. μή denotes the condition which produces the κρίμα. The meaning of διακρίνω here, as in 1 Corinthians 6:5, is to come to a correct decision after examination. The believer has discerned the fact that it is no ordinary meal in which he is invited to participate, but that in the rite there is a feeding on the Body of Christ. Some interpret ‘not discriminating between the Body of the Lord and other kinds of food.’ But the interpretation above is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 11:31, where διεκρίνομεν cannot mean ‘distinguish between ourselves and others,’ but must mean ‘come to a right conclusion about ourselves.’ See note on 1 Corinthians 4:7 and cf. Matthew 16:3.

Verse 30

30. ἀσθενεῖς καὶ ἄρρωστοι. If the body be the temple of the Lord (ch. 1 Corinthians 6:19), we can well understand how a crime against His Body and Blood (1 Corinthians 11:27) would tend to deprive the body of any Christian who committed it of His presence, and predispose it to sickness and even death. This is the judgment of which the Apostle speaks in 1 Corinthians 11:29. Cf. also John 5:14.

ἱκανοί. Literally, a considerable number, even more than the number of those who are weak and sickly. For κοιμῶνται see 1 Corinthians 7:39. Render, are sleeping, referring to their present condition.

Verse 31

31. εἰ δὲ ἑαυτοὺς διεκρίνομεν. Dean Stanley renders, if we had judged ourselves, these judgments (i.e. weakness, sickness, death) would not have fallen upon us. But it is better to render for if we were in the habit of discerning ourselves, judgments would not come upon us, as we find them doing. Thus the strict sense of the imperfects is preserved. For διακρίνω see 1 Corinthians 11:29.

Verse 32

32. παιδευόμεθα. Cf. Psalms 94:12; Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11. The word implies discipline for the purpose of improvement.

ἵνα μὴκατακριθῶμεν. A clear proof that damnation is an incorrect translation of κρίμα in 1 Corinthians 11:29. The κατάκριμα is avoided by undergoing the κρίματα.

Verse 33

33. ὥστε. The conclusion of the whole subject. Every one is to wait till a fair and orderly distribution of the food has been made; and each is to remember that this is not an ordinary meal for the purpose of satisfying hunger, but the solemn commemoration of the Lord’s Death. A meal for the purpose of satisfying hunger had best be taken at home, to avoid the profanation which the Apostle has condemned.

Verse 34

34. εἰς κρίμα. Unto judgment, i. e. that your assembling yourselves together may not have that result. The same word is used here as in 1 Corinthians 11:29.

ὡς ἄν ἔλθω. ἂν points out the uncertainty of the time of this coming.

διατάξομαι. Great changes in the order of administration of Holy Communion were rendered necessary by the abuses which so soon sprang up in the Christian Church. From an evening meal it became an early morning gathering: see Pliny, Ep. X. 42, 43, who says that in his day (about A.D. 110) the Christians were accustomed to meet ‘before it was light.’ (Cf. ‘antelucanis coetibus’ Tertullian, de Coronâ 3.) And the Agapae were first separated from the Lord’s Supper and then finally abolished altogether. See Neander, Hist. of the Church, vol. I. § 3, who remarks that in the earliest account we have of the mode in which Holy Communion was celebrated (in the Apology of Justin Martyr, written about A.D. 150) there is no mention of the Agapae. Similarly Gieseler, Compendium of Eccl. Hist., sec. 53, note. ‘So the form of the primitive practice was altered, in order to save the spirit of the original institution.’ Stanley.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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Monday, November 30th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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