The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

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Bobcat
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The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#1 Post by Bobcat » 6 years ago

The 12/15/2013 Study WT has the article, "This Is To Be A Memorial For You." In it, paragraph 7 (on page 18) makes the statement, ". . . Jesus instituted a new event that his followers thereafter were to keep annually - the Lord's Evening Meal." The article goes on to focus on the idea of which particular day was that to be, Nisan 14 or Nisan 15.

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)


Additional Notes:
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.

Bobcat

Bobcat
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Re: The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#2 Post by Bobcat » 6 years ago

Some additional links regarding the Memorial and Passover:
1. Regarding the history of four cups of wine at the Passover: Here. That thread is about the question of why drinking the wine if the wine symbolizes "the blood of the new covenant."

2. Regarding Jn 6:53, 54 and its possible relationship with the Memorial: Here.

3. A portion from a 1917 WT on who may partake: Here. This was curious.

Bobcat

Bobcat
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Re: The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#3 Post by Bobcat » 6 years ago

yobec, commenting on the BP site, gave this link which has an interesting discussion of the 2nd century (and forward) subject of when to celebtate the Lord's evening meal.

Added here to broaden out the discussion.

Bobcat

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menrov
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Re: The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#4 Post by menrov » 6 years ago

Very clear Bobcat and thanks Yobec for the link provided. I fully agree with both for the reasons mentioned. Jesus death was a gift to those under the Law as this released them from the Law. Faith in this act and in Jesus saves all, Jews and Gentiles alike (John 3:16). Like with any gift, the recipient should show his appreciation as often as possible. A once a year memorial is not what was intended. But I agree with the contents of the article.Yobec shared, in the end it is a personal.choice how often to remember and no one should criticize another person. It cannot be mandated by a cetral religious authority.

MichaelM
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Re: The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#5 Post by MichaelM » 6 years ago

Bobcat,

I fully agree. This is the very live of reasoning I also use of the topic. I've yet to hear a rebuttal to it.

M

leaving_quietly
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Re: The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#6 Post by leaving_quietly » 6 years ago

An additional point to consider. John 6:48-50:

“I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and for a fact, the bread that I will give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.

How often did the Israelites eat manna?

apollos0fAlexandria
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Re: The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#7 Post by apollos0fAlexandria » 6 years ago

leaving_quietly wrote:
52 years ago
An additional point to consider. John 6:48-50:

“I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and for a fact, the bread that I will give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.

How often did the Israelites eat manna?
This is a very fine point LQ, in addition to Bobcat's excellent post. If we were supposed to be still doing a form of passover then why wouldn't we have been instructed to eat lamb once a year, rather than bread, in symbolism of Christ Jesus sacrifice? The passover was a ritual sacrifice as well as a memorial. The meal we take in remembering Jesus and proclaiming his death until he arrives is based on a perpetual sacrifice.

At one gathering we had, I developed that theme on manna as a precursor to the commemoration for the Lord, and it is amazing how many points can be drawn from it. And while not conclusive proof of anything in regard to frequency, it can certainly be taken into consideration.

Apollos

peely
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Re: The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#8 Post by peely » 6 years ago

My knowledge in researching this is not as great as any of yours, but I thought I'd share my viewpoint.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 1 Cor 11:23-27

How many years after Christ died did Paul speak these words? 20-25 maybe? There could have been 20-25 yearly observances before he speaks these words; reminding them to do this with the proper understanding and with reverence, based on possible "unworthy" incidents that had happened. I can't see any indication that this was a weekly or monthly event or an event any time they chose. I believe that would be going against the grain of this people and their heritage.
These people came from a society that observed celebrations annually; and with that the Passover feast, observed annually. The Sabbath day was the only weekly remembrance.
The time period that the Book of Acts was written is up in the air – from 60 CE-150CE, although I am reading that most scholars choose between 80-90 CE. By bringing out time periods it shows me that many observances of the Lord's Supper had occured upon writing these particular scriptures. With that in mind, consider:

Acts 18:20,21 - When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent,21 but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.

Acts 12:1-4 - Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the
sword. 3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

1 Cor 5:6-8 - our glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The unleavened bread that the Jews came together here to eat was associated with the Passover only, a yearly event.

I was raised a Catholic and took part in the “communion” as soon as I was old enough. Every day of the week, a Catholic can take part in this segment of the “Mass”. It seems to me there is little reverence in such a repetitive act. The gravity of the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice as well as all events of that night become obscured or even lost.
The deep meaning behind the Lord’s Supper as the enactment of the New Covenant and the ultimate sacrifice for our sins leads me to believe that it was an annual event observed by those within the Body of Christ intent on pleasing Christ. The Passover was a symbol of the Law Covenant. When Christ said in Luke 22:15 – I eagerly desire to eat this Passover with you”, most likely it took on an anticipated new meaning to this feast. The symbols of this remembrance were still associated with the Passover. 1Cor.5:7; 2Chron.35:11; John1:29

On the night of the feast of bread and wine, Christ replaced the Passover Lamb and gave it a new meaning, a new promise. For me it is safe to say there would be a much more somber and grateful significance to my participation in this meal as part of Christ’s Body, if revered on the date it first happened, then if I had chose any day of the year and any time I choose. I would consider myself no different than as a Catholic, consuming a factory made wafer and repeating a string of prayers with all - the act, the prayers, the entire rite - devoid of the meaning of Christ in my life.

My two cents worth and with love,
peely

apollos0fAlexandria
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Re: The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#9 Post by apollos0fAlexandria » 6 years ago

Hi Peely

Thanks for providing an alternative viewpoint. Any discussion can benefit from that.

I don't think anybody is saying that there is an obligation to hold the commemoration more than once a year, or that it would be wrong if a person felt that a certain date was appropriate. On the other hand the question is whether scripture truly indicates that it must be a continuation of the passover event in another form. Do you strongly feel that scripture gives weight to that, or is it rather based on the feeling that Catholic communion somehow "waters down" the significance of the event?

If someone were to commemorate each time they came together for a special event - for arguments sake let's say it happened three times in the year - and each time held it in great reverence, then do you feel that you could say from scripture that they would be wrong to do so? Or indeed could you say that someone passively passing the emblems without partaking once per year would be more in keeping with New Testament scriptures than someone who partakes of the meal several times in order to "keep proclaiming the death of the Lord"?

Just some questions for serious consideration.

Agape,
Apollos

peely
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Re: The Lord's Evening Meal - How Often?

#10 Post by peely » 6 years ago

Good evening Apollos,

Thank you for your thoughts, Apollos, and I do see where you are getting at. I can only voice my own feelings, really. While in the WT we were encouraged to read scriptures leading up to the night of Christ’s death during this time of year. In their pathetic attempt, they conditioned us to think we were drawing close to Christ in this manner. It became a chore for me, playing catch-up when I missed a day of scripture reading. Then, on the night of the Memorial, a mere 45 minutes passed for the audience, who sat in polished and rather new looking attire, all the while many of us keeping an eye out for a possible anointed one to partake. It its own way, the event was meaningless. What held more meaning for many, I feel, were the get togethers at houses and restaurants afterwards. It was as if Easter was celebrated right along with Christ’s death.

I realize now the true significance of the night; how the apostles – the first members of the Body – joined with Christ to become one, that through each one’s sacrifice, life will come for all. The new creation of those within this body share one Spirit; which is the connection that will fulfill the promise. Gal4:26; 1Pet.1:23

Because of the deep meaning behind the emblems, I couldn't consider the partaking of them more than once a year and make it a reverential event. Could one do so with great reverence? Observing the meal annually helps me place myself right alongside the apostles within my mind – truly living the night’s events as they happened, as much as possible.

Just another thought. I, as well as all of us here, daily “eat” the bread of Christ by taking in the Word and applying it to our lives. John 17:3; Rev 2:17

Matt 4:4 says, - But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

1 John 1:1 - That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—

1 John 5:7 - For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.

What Christ gave us comes directly from God, life sustaining bread that we can partake of each and every day of our life. How did Smoldering Wick put it once? Aren't we glad the Bible isn't copyrighted?

We all must decide how we will approach the meaning and partaking of the Lord’s Supper. I know we won’t be mislead if we rely on Holy Spirit to help us reach our individual decisions.

http://pearl-emblems.blogspot.com/

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