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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

1 Corinthians 11

Verses 1-99

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

2 16. The Conduct and Dress of Women at the Public Services of the Church

2 . Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things ] There is no contradiction between this verse and v . 17. The ordinances which St Paul had delivered to the Corinthians had 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 ( v . 34) those of less pressing importance till he himself arrived at Corinth. The ordinances in the present chapter relate (1) to the conduct of women in the public assemblies, and (2) to the Lord’s Supper.

ordinances ] The margin has traditions; praecepta , Vulgate ( comaundements , Wiclif). The signification of the Greek word is things delivered , and it is derived from the verb translated delivered in this verse, just as tradition is derived from trado , to deliver or give over . 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. 11:23, 15:3, which are spoken of as having been ‘delivered’ by the Apostle. The doctrines of the Rabbis are spoken of as ‘traditions’ in St Matthew 15:2 ; Galatians 1:14 .

as I delivered them to you ] “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.

3 . But I would have you know ] According to St Paul’s invariable rule, the question is argued and settled upon the first principles of the Christian Revelation. In the sight of God all men are equal; yet without distinctions of rank and office society could not exist. But equality and order are reconciled by the revelation of God in Christ.

the head ] “In the idea of this word dominion is especially expressed. As in the human organisation 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.

of every man is Christ ] See Ephesians 1:22 , Ephesians 1:4 :15; 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.

the head of the woman is the man ] 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 2:11 , 1 Timothy 2:13 ) 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, v . 5) she is on an equality with man in her individual relation to Christ.

the head of Christ is God ] Cf. ch. 3:23, 8:6, 15:28, and notes. Also St John 14:28 . Possibly this may be added to prevent the idea from gaining currency that the interval between man and woman was in any degree comparable to that between Christ and man. And it also implies that the whole universe is one vast system of orderly gradation, from God its Creator downwards.

4 . Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered ] 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. It appears that 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 1 Corinthians 3:14 , 1 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. xxx. “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. 14:1.

dishonoureth his head ] Either (1) Christ, ‘the Head of every man,’ by the non-acknowledgment of redemption through Him. Or (2) his own head, as not bearing in mind that his body and spirit had been bought with a price, and were therefore Christ’s, and thus high in the favour of God.

5 . But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth ] 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. 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. 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 alteram 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. 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.

with her head uncovered ] i.e. without the peplum or shawl, which (see Art. 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.

dishonoureth her head ] “As the man honours his head by proclaiming his liberty, so the woman by acknowledging her subjection.” Calvin. Cf. Numbers 5:18 .

for that is even all one as if she were shaven ] i.e. she might just as well be shaven, as appear in the public assemblies with her face entirely uncovered.

6 . but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven ] i.e. with her hair either cropped close or shaven . This was considered a disgrace. It was the sign of a slave (see Aristophanes, Birds , 911), or of one in mourning and humiliation (Deuteronomy 21:12 ).

7 . For a man indeed ought not to cover his head ] 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 v . 10.

forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God ] Additional reason for the Apostle’s directions. Man is God’s image (Genesis 1:26 , Genesis 1:27 , Genesis 1:5 :1, Genesis 1:9 :2, Genesis 1:6 ), 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 1:16 , Genesis 1:28 , Genesis 1:3 :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.

the woman is the glory of the man ] 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.

8 . For the man is not of the 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.

10 . For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head ] That is, as in the margin of our version, ‘ a covering in sign that she is under the power of her husband .’ An hilyng ( hülle , veil), Wiclif. Third 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 St Matthew 10:1 .; St Luke 4:36 , &c. Hence it has been suggested in the notes on ch. 9:4, 5, 12 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 .

because of the angels ] 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.

11 . Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman ] “St Paul’s teaching from v . 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.

12 . For as the woman is of the man ] i.e. by creation (Genesis 2:22 ),

even so is the man also by the woman ] By birth.

but all things of God ] We are not to dwell too much on the intermediate links in the chain of causation, but to remember that all human beings exist by God’s 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.

13 15 . Judge in yourselves …] Return to the argument in v . 10. 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 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.

is it comely ] 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.”

uncovered ] Not hilid (veiled) on the heed , Wiclif. Bare hedded , Tyndale.

14 . Doth not even nature itself teach you ] 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.

15 . it is a glory to her ] 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.

for her hair is given her for a covering ] A mantle , or cloak . 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.

16 . But if any man seem to be contentious ] Some commentators refer these words to what follows; but it would seem best to apply them 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. See note on ch. 14:33.

we have no such custom, neither the churches of God ] The word custom has been interpreted (1) as referring to contention, “it is not our custom to be contentious,” or (3) 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 ritual. But in a matter such as this, involving the position of women in Christian society, it were far wiser for the Corinthian Church to follow the universal practice of Christendom.

17 34. Disorders at the Lord’s Supper

17 . Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not ] St Paul was able to praise the Corinthians ( v . 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.

that you come together not for the better, but for the worse ] Literally, unto the better and unto the worse , i.e. they were the worse, not the better, for meeting together for worship.

18 . For first of all ] Either (1) we must take this to apply to this and the next verse, find the second cause of blame to commence with v . 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 seems to have been 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 v . 21.

in the church ] Not the building, for there were no churches in the sense of buildings devoted to Christian worship then, but in the assembly .

divisions ] Margin, schisms . Wiclif and Tyndale better, dissencion . Dissidia , Calvin. Vulgate, scissuras . See note on ch. 1:10.

19 . heresies ] Sects , Tyndale. Rotten (i.e. factions), Luther. This word is variously translated in our version. In the Acts (5:17, 15:5, 24:5, 28:22) it is usually translated sect . But in Acts 24:14 and in Galatians 5:20 . so and 2 Peter 2:1 , it is rendered, as here, by the word heresy . It signifies the deliberate choice of a doctrine or line of conduct, as opposed to receiving it on authority. St Paul must be understood as saying that not only will there be dissension and division among Christians, but that some of them will go their own way in spite of the instructions both in doctrine and practice delivered to them by Christ’s Apostles. So St Chrysostom and many other Greek Fathers. Cf. Acts 20:29 ; 1 Timothy 4:1 ; 2 Timothy 3:1-55.3.5 ; 2 Peter 2:1 ; Jude 1:18 ; also ch. 14:38.

that they which are approved may be made manifest among you ] The Greek is not simply so that , but in order that , as though God had permitted these evils to arise in order to test the faith and patience of Christian men. Cf. St James 1:3 ; 1 Peter 1:6 , 1 Peter 1:7 .

approved ] Probati , Vulgate; δόκιμος , he who has stood the trial. It is the opposite of ἀδόκιμος , reprobate, rejected ; see ch. 9:17. δοκίμιον , a noun derived from this word, is translated trial in the passages cited in the last note. Cf. St James 1:12 , where the words when he is tried should rather be rendered having become approved ( δόκιμος ), and 2 Corinthians 13:7 .

20 . into one place ] Literally, to (or at ) the same place . See Acts 1:15 , Acts 2:1 , Acts 3:1 , and ch. 7:5 of this Epistle. It is the only phrase which we find applied to the place of the Christian assembly. See note on v . 18.

this is not to eat the Lord’s supper ] Better, perhaps, it is not to eat a supper of the Lord’s Institution . The absence of the article, the apparent antithesis between a supper of Christ’s and a supper of one’s own devising, and the presence of the article in Revelation 1:10 ( the Lord’s Day ), confirm this rendering. It is not merely that the conduct of the Corinthian Christians was inconsistent with taking’ part in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, but that it was in no sense a supper of Christ’s institution of which they partook. “The question arose,” says Dean Stanley, “whether the majesty, the tenderness, the awe of the feast should be lost in a senseless orgy.”

21 . For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper ] Rather, 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 2:20 :7, Acts 2:11 . It 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 ( v . 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 none.

and another is drunken ] 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. 5:1) was a more gradual process than is generally supposed.

22 . have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? ] i.e. 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) a practice intended to bind Christian people together in mutual love (see Acts 2:42-44.2.47 , Acts 4:32-44.4.35 ), (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 v . 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. 10:15, 16.

or despise ye the church of God ] Not the material building (see above, v . 18), but the Church gathered together in it, called out of the world, or called together (the Greek favours the first, the analogy of the Hebrew the latter explanation) 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.

and shame them that have not ] Not “those who have no houses,” “ han noone ” Wiclif, but as the margin, them that are poor; qui sont pauvres , De Sacy. The word in the original is rather stronger than shame ; it is equivalent to disgrace .

23 . For I have received of the Lord ] Literally, For I received of 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. 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 the Gospel of St Matthew was possibly in existence by this time, and if 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.

24 . and when he had given thanks ] St Mark has ‘blessed,’ St Matthew, according to some copies, ‘blessed,’ to others, ‘gave thanks.’ St Luke agrees with St Paul. From the Greek word used here this sacrament derives its name of Eucharist , or thanksgiving .

and said ] 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. And first, there are varieties in the reading here, occasioned by the practice, so common among the early transcribers of the N. T., of endeavouring to assimilate the various historical passages to one another. Thus the majority of MSS. omit ‘Take, eat,’ here, and it is probably introduced from St Matthew 26:26 . Then some MSS. omit the word broken , but the majority of MSS. retain it, and its omission renders the sentence rather harsh. Thus, then, 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.’ St Matthew and St Mark simply give the words, ‘Take, eat: this is My body.’

in remembrance of me ] 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 ‘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 .

25 . After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped ] The words in the original, though translated differently, are precisely the same as those of St Luke, and seem to imply (see also St Luke 22:17 ) that while the bread was administered at supper, the cup was administered after it.

saying ] The literal translation of the words is, This cup is the New Covenant in My Blood; this do whensoever ye 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;’ 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.

new testament ] This is unquestionably the original meaning of the word thus translated in Classical Greek. It is derived from a word signifying 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). In other places in the N. T. it is used, as in the Septuagint, 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 Christ entered into with man, and (2) it was His Death which gave that covenant validity.

26 . For as often as ye eat ] These words are not those of Christ, but of St Paul. St John 3:31-43.3.36 , and Galatians 2:15-48.2.21 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.

ye do shew ] 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. If Meyer be right in supposing that the word here used is never employed except in the sense of oral proclamation (see ch. 2:1, 9:14 of this Epistle; and Philippians 1:16 , Philippians 1:18 ; Colossians 1:28 , as examples of its use by St Paul), we have here strong grounds for affirming that the words of institution formed part of the form of celebrating the Sacrament, even in Apostolic times. The word occurs ten times in the Acts of the Apostles, always in the sense of proclaim .

the Lord’s death ] Since this Sacrament was instituted as a memorial of Christ’s Death upon the Cross.

till he come ] As long as the Christian Church shall last, this Sacrament will continue to be celebrated for the object for which it was instituted. However widely divided on other points, Christians have agreed in carrying out this prediction for more than 1800 years.

27 . and drink this cup ] Literally, or drink the cup . Many Protestant translators 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 a rendering clearly incorrect, 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 v . 25.

unworthily ] “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 regarded what is essentially the Supper of the Lord as a supper of one’s own, and therefore as one at which it was lawful to be selfish, or intemperate, or both.

shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord ] Either (1) shall be punishable for ‘crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting Him to an open shame’ (Hebrews 6:6 ), “as though thou thyself didst shed the blood,” Theophylact; or (2) for committing an offence against the Body and Blood of Christ, since “the participation presupposes a moral condition which must be in keeping with this most sacred commemoration; but if the condition of the communicant be of an opposite kind, then the holy Body and Blood, into communion with which we enter through such participation, can only be abused and profaned.” Meyer. The word here translated guilty ( reus , Vulgate) signifies the condition in which a man becomes amenable to punishment. Cf. St Matthew 5:21 , Matthew 5:22 , where the word is translated in danger of the judgment, council, hell-fire (see also St Mark 3:29 ), and 26:66, guilty of death , i.e. of a capital crime. St James 2:10 , guilty of all, i.e. liable to the same penalty as though he had broken all.

28 . examine himself ] 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 (St Luke 12:56 ); of beasts of burden (St 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 1:14 :22; 1 Corinthians 16:3 . 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” (see note on last verse) 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. Jude 1:12 .

29 . damnation ] Rather judgment , as in the margin. Wiclif, dome (as in ch. 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, v . 33 clearly shews (Alford, De Wette). Some MSS. and editors omit “unworthily” here. It may have been introduced from v . 27. If it be omitted, the sense is that he who eats and drinks without discerning (see next note) the Body of Christ, invites 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. The latter is the reading of the ancient versions.

discerning ] Dijudicans , Vulgate. Discernens , Calvin. Dass er nicht unterscheidet , Luther. Wiseli demynge , Wiclif. Because he maketh no difference of , Tyndale (after Luther). The word discern properly signifies to perceive distinctions , to distinguish. Thus Shakspeare,

“No discerner durst wag his tongue in censure,”

Henry VIII . Act i. Sc. 1,

i.e. no one who might have been inclined to exalt one king at the expense of the other. So the word discreet originally meant one who had the power of rightly distinguishing. The Greek word sometimes means to distinguish , or even to cause to differ (ch. 4:7). In the passive, in which it most frequently occurs in the N. T., it signifies to be made to differ, to doubt . Here, however, the word is used in its primary signification (cf. St Matthew 16:3 , where the same word is used with the same translation), and means to decide after a thorough inquiry ( search out , Chrysostom) to pierce through the impediments opposed by sense, and thus to come to a right conclusion of what is actually offered to faith in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, rather than with some, to discriminate between the Body of the Lord and other kinds of food.

the Lord’s body ] Some MSS. and editors read the body .

30 . For this cause many are weak and sickly among you ] If the body be the temple of the Lord (ch. 6:19), we can well understand how a crime against His Body and Blood ( v . 27) would 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 v . 29. Cf. also St John 5:14 .

and many sleep ] Literally, a considerable number , even more than the number of those who are weak and sickly. For sleep , see ch. 7:39.

31 . For if we would judge ourselves ] Perhaps better, with Dean Stanley, if we had judged ourselves, these judgments (i.e. weakness, sickness, death) would not have fallen upon us (though the rendering in the text is grammatically accurate). Such consequences are surely serious enough to make any one hesitate to trifle with so solemn an ordinance. The word here translated judge is the same as that rendered discern in verse 29. Here it means to pass a thorough and therefore an accurate judgment , Tyndale renders rightly judged. Richteten , Luther. Wiclif and the Vulgate as before.

32 . chastened ] Cf. Psalms 94:12 ; Proverbs 3:11 , Proverbs 3:12 ; Hebrews 12:5-58.12.11 .

that we should not be condemned with the world ] A clear proof that damnation is an incorrect translation in v . 29. ‘The world’ here is not the Divine order of things as established by God’s ordinance, as in ch. 3:22; St John 1:10 , but as thrown into disorder by man’s sin. See St John 14:17 , John 14:15 :18; 1 John 2:15 , 1 John 2:16 , &c.

33 . Wherefore, my brethren ] 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.

34 . that ye come not together unto condemnation ] Rather, as margin, judgment . The same word is used here as in v . 29.

And the rest will I set in order when I come ] 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. 1. §. 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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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/1-corinthians-11.html. 1896.