But the subject of this thread is as to whether Jesus intended the Lord's Evening Meal to be an "annual" remembrance as the WT article asserts. And whether Christians in the first century understood it to be an annual remembrance.
The WT assertion (of an annual remembrance) is based on the fact that the Passover was an annual event for the Jews. Thus, in the WT viewpoint, the Memorial should be held annually also.
But consider these points:
The Only Commands About Keeping it Are Non-specific
Here are how each of the synoptic gospel accounts describe what has come to be known as, "The Lord's Evening Meal. (At a Kingdom Hall, most will refer to this as "The Memorial"):
(Luke 22:19, 20 NWT) Also, he took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This means my body which is to be given in YOUR behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” 20 Also, the cup in the same way after they had the evening meal, he saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in YOUR behalf.
(Matthew 26:26-28 NWT) As they continued eating, Jesus took a loaf and, after saying a blessing, he broke it and, giving it to the disciples, he said: “TAKE, eat. This means my body.” 27 Also, he took a cup and, having given thanks, he gave it to them, saying: “Drink out of it, all of YOU; 28 for this means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.
(Mark 14:22-24 NWT) And as they continued eating, he took a loaf, said a blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “Take it; this means my body.”+ 23 And taking a cup, he offered thanks and gave it to them, and they all drank out of it. 24 And he said to them: “This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many.
Note that Matthew's account leaves out the "keep doing this . . ." command, but includes the command to "take, eat" and "drink out of it, all of you," which is less explicit in Luke, although implied. Mark's account also leaves off the command to "keep doing this." And Mark's account is worded so as to be more descriptive of the eating and drinking rather than being phrased as a command. Ironically, the WT is specific ("annually") about what is non-specific in the gospels (the "Keep doing this . . ."). But the WT is very much not wanting people to do the very thing Jesus specifically said to do: "Take eat," and "Drink out of it, all of you." (Compare Mt 23:24)
But that is an aside. The focus here is on, "How often?" The only other place instructions for the Lord's Evening Meal are given is in 1 Corinthians chapter 11:
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NWT) For I received from the Lord that which I also handed on to YOU, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was going to be handed over took a loaf 24 and, after giving thanks, he broke it and said: “This means my body which is in YOUR behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” 25 He did likewise respecting the cup also, after he had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, as often as YOU drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as YOU eat this loaf and drink this cup, YOU keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives. . .
So, the commands about "when" or "how often" (from Luke 22:19 and 1st Corinthians 11:24-26) merely say, "Keep doing this," and "Keep doing this, as often as . . ." ("As often as" = "whenever" in the rNWT) The WT publication Reasoning From the Scriptures agrees with this so far, saying: "Jesus did not specifically state how often it was to be done. He simply said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)" (rs p. 269 par. 1, under Memorial) So, going by that non-specific command, one could derive the idea of an annual observance from this. And the WT has. And the intent of this write-up is not to condemn an annual choice for the Lord's Evening Meal. If someone wants it to be an annual "memorial," the language employed in the NT does allow for that option.
But choosing to have an annual observance is a far cry from insisting that 'Jesus established an annual observance,' and then enforcing that choice on others. Jesus did no such thing. He simply said "Keep doing this . . ." Saying that "Jesus established an annual observance" is an example of the WT 'teaching the commands of men as doctrine.' (Matthew 15:9)
What Does 1 Corinthians 5:7, 8 Indicate?
The WT article cited above (12/15/13) quotes part of 1 Corinthians 5:7 saying, "Christ our passover has been sacrificed." (p. 17 par. 2). But note verse 8 which immediately follows:
(1 Corinthians 5:8 NWT) . . . Consequently let us keep the festival, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of badness and wickedness, but with unfermented cakes of sincerity and truth.
In saying, "Let us keep the festival," Paul is referring back to "Christ our Passover" in verse 7. But Paul could hardly have meant that they should practice "sincerity and truth" only one day of the year or even a month or two during a so-called "Memorial Season." (Contrast Gal 4:10, 11) Also, Paul's mention of "leaven" is related to the Jewish Passover as leaven was not to be found at Passover meals or even in Jewish homes during the week leading up to Passover. But Paul's application of it is to "badness and wickedness," which, again, has to be with regard to year round conduct and not some seasonal remembrance.
The point of this is that Paul saw "Christ our Passover" and "the festival" that Christians were to "keep" as a year round endeavor. The effect of the WT's imposed annual observance is to impose seasonal works and seasonally required Bible readings upon JWs. This all smacks of a return to Judaism.
The Context of Paul's Instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Consider the context of Paul's instructions about the Lord's Evening Meal in 1st Corinthians 11:17-34. Paul begins the discussion this way:
(1 Corinthians 11:17-20 NWT) 17 But, while giving these instructions, I do not commend YOU because it is, not for the better, but for the worse that YOU meet together. 18 For first of all, when YOU come together in a congregation, I hear divisions exist among YOU; and in some measure I believe it. 19 For there must also be sects among YOU, that the persons approved may also become manifest among YOU. 20 Therefore, when YOU come together to one place, it is not possible to eat the Lord’s evening meal.
Notice that the discussion that includes "the Lord's Evening Meal" revolves around, when "you meet together," "when you come together in a congregation," and "when you come together to one place." According to Paul,"divisions" are occurring among the Corinthians "when [they] come together in a congregation." And this, "therefore," makes it "not possible to eat the Lord's Evening Meal" "when you come together to one place."
The problem that Paul is referring to is not "the Lord's evening meal" per se. Rather it involves "divisions" that are occurring when the Corinthians "meet together." 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 gives some indication that the Corinthians normally met on the 1st day of the week. (For some historical perspective, see here and especially under the sub-title, "Origins of Sunday worship.")
Everything about the wording of 1 Corinthians 11:17-20 sounds like something taking place regularly among the Corinthians, not at an "annual observance." This includes the "as often as" found in 1Co 11:25, 26 (which only occurs in the NT also at Revelation 11:6 in a context that certainly does not mean "annually.") The Corinthians were meeting once a week. There were "divisions" among them 'when they met.' And these divisions among them made "the Lord's evening meal" inappropriate.
The conclusion is quite apparent: The Corinthians were commemorating "the Lord's evening meal" every time they met, that is, once a week.
How Does 1 Corinthians 11:33, 34 Support This Conclusion?
Paul concludes the discussion in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 with these words:
(1 Corinthians 11:33, 34 NWT) . . .Consequently, my brothers, when YOU come together to eat [it], wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, that YOU may not come together for judgment. But the remaining matters I will set in order when I get there.
There is that "when you come together" as discussed above. But notice, "the remaining matters [Paul] will set in order when [he] gets there." When did Paul intend to "get there"? Notice what he says later in the letter:
(1 Corinthians 16:5-8 NWT) . . .But I shall come to YOU when I have gone through Mac·e·do′ni·a, for I am going through Mac·e·do′ni·a; 6 and perhaps I shall stay or even pass the winter with YOU, that YOU may conduct me partway to where I may be going. 7 For I do not want to see YOU just now on [my] passing through, for I hope to remain some time with YOU, if Jehovah permits. 8 But I am remaining in Eph′e·sus until the [festival of] Pentecost;
Paul says he intends to stay in Ephesus "until . . . Pentecost" (mid-May or so) but to "stay or even pass the winter" with the Corinthians (which would require an arrival before late-September due to winter travel difficulties). Since he intends to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, this places the writing of this letter (1st Corinthians) before Passover (which comes 50 days before Pentecost). So as Paul writes this letter there is an approaching Passover, after which, Paul intends to arrive there before winter sets in.
IF, as the WT contends, the Corinthians only hold the Lord's Evening Meal once a year, on the date of the Jewish Passover, that means there is only one observance between when Paul writes his letter and when he intends to arrive to "set in order" the "remaining matters."
So, hypothetically speaking, if there is only one Memorial to be held before Paul arrives, why would Paul describe it as "when you come together"? These words only make sense if the Lord's evening meal was a normal feature among the Corinthian Christians at their regular, weekly meetings.
"As Often As" (1 Corinthians 11:25, 26)
An additional point that can be taken from this is to be found in Paul's words, "as often as" ("whenever" - rNWT). He says:
(1 Corinthians 11:25, 26) . . .He did likewise respecting the cup also, after he had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, as often as YOU drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as YOU eat this loaf and drink this cup, YOU keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.
As with the words, "when you come together," "as often as" makes no sense in Paul's instructions if the Corinthians were only going to have one Lord's evening meal before Paul arrived there. They only make sense if this is a regular ongoing occurrence. The WT focuses on the idea that "as often as" could be taken as a yearly phrase. But the context of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 over rules that idea. "As often as" also indicates that Paul allowed the Corinthians a certain amount of autonomy in their choice of when and how often they kept the Lord's evening meal. This is in contrast to the micro-managing of the Memorial that the WT does when JWs hold their annual commemoration. Also, the JW Memorial is an "event." For the Corinthians, the Lord's evening meal was something that occurred when "[they] meet together . . . when [they] come together in a congregation. (1Co 11:17, 18)
1. Regarding "the body" referred to in 1Co 11:27, 29 see this post (by leaving_quietly) for some excellent context.
2. On the idea of a weekly meeting schedule among early Christians see here. This is the article on "Lord's Day" (Rev 1:10) from the ISBE (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). This isn't the more recent revised version of the ISBE, but the article carries the gist of whats in the newer one.
3. This post has a similar discussion and points as were made above.
4. This thread discusses whether Nisan 14 or Nisan 15 was the date of the first Lord's Evening Meal.
5. On what is involved in "observing" the Lord's Evening Meal, see this post.
6. On the idea of a "Memorial Season" see this thread.
7. On whether Judas was present for the passing of the bread and wine, see this post and included links.
8. Some other links of interest to the Memorial can be found here.
9. Is this the last Memorial? See this thread.
10. See the next post below for additional related links.