Remembrance and Paedo-Communion

In this post I am going to argue that the meaning of the word ἀνάμνησιν in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 does not provide evidence one way or the other as to whether children may participate in the Supper, since the whole question depends on a prior question of whether infants participated in the Passover. 

First of all, I reject the interpretation of the word that makes it into something that God remembers.
The reason for that is very simple. The folks who have argued for this position have been using the wrong Old Testament precedents for arguing as its meaning. John Barach, for instance (and I think Leithart also goes this direction), looks to the Noahic covenant and the rainbow as a precedent for understanding the term in this way. The problem here is that there is a much more direct precedent for understanding the term, and that is in the institution and instructions for Passover itself. Even Leonard Coppes agrees that the Passover is part of the background for the Lord’s Supper (Coppes would argue that most of the other Old Testament feasts participate in the type as well). Deuteronomy 16:3 says this:

לֹא־תֹאכַל עָלָיו חָמֵץ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל־עָלָיו מַצּוֹת לֶחֶם עֹנִי כִּי

בְחִפָּזוֹן יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת־יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ

מִצְרַיִם כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ׃  

In Greek: οὐ φαγῇ ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῦ ζύμην· ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας φαγῇ ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἄζυμα, ἄρτον κακώσεως, ὅτι ἐν σπουδῇ ἐξήλθετε ἐξ Αἰγύπτου· ἵνα μνησθῆτε τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς ἐξοδίας ὑμῶν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς ὑμῶν.

In English: You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.

The point here is that “remembering” is clearly second person in both Greek and Hebrew: “You will remember.” The verse has a summarizing feel to it such that this is the purpose for the Passover, so that the people will remember.

Exodus 12 does nothing to shake this conclusion, since the whole emphasis is on the people remembering. They do all the necessary preparations so that they will remember everything the Lord wants them to remember. There is no indication in Exodus 12 that the Lord is doing the remembering. Of course, Tim Gallant argues (pg. 86 of Feed My Lambs) that it is both God remembering and the people remembering. He argues that ἀνάμνησιν means both, and that it is the purpose of the Sacrament, not a prerequisite (pg. 85). I am personally leaning towards the people being the ones who remember on this one, as I see no indication of Passover meaning anything else. There is no proof that the word means anything other than the people’s remembrance. Even if there were, it would not prove that the word meant that in 1 Corinthians 11. If the Passover is the main antecedent in the Old Testament (which I agree that it is), then the Passover’s theology of remembrance should carry over into the Lord’s Supper. The reason why this argument cannot be used in favor of credo-communion is that it is debated as to whether children partook of the Passover. If they partook of the Passover, and yet they can still be said to be doing the remembering by their very partaking, then the argument is not proved one way or the other. The whole question will then turn on whether children partook of Passover or not.

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26 Comments

  1. Peter Jones said,

    June 30, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Lane, in your last sentence are you saying that the question of what “remembrance” means in I Cor. 11 hinges on whether children partook of the Passover? Or are you saying the question of paedo vs. credo communion hinges on whether children partook of the Passover? Sorry, I am just trying to clarify the antecedent. Thanks.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    June 30, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Good question. What I mean is that the question of whether children should partake of communion does not depend on the meaning of the word “remembrance,” but will depend on other things. If children partook of the Passover, then the question of the meaning of the word “remembrance” will not decide one way or the other.

  3. Frank Davies said,

    June 30, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Lane, did children partake of the “spiritual meat” and “spiritual drink” described in 1 Corinthians 10 v 1-5?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    June 30, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Frank, all in due time. That is certainly one passage I intend to address. However, comments on this thread need to stay on this thread’s topic.

  5. Peter Jones said,

    June 30, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Lane, I am in favor of paedo-communion, just to give a full disclosure up front. I have read Gallant, Meyers, Leithart, etc., but that was a while ago, so I may not be remembering correctly. Do these men make the term “remembrance” a key to paedo-communion? I know they argue that the table is, among other things, a memorial before God where he remembers the work of Christ, but I do not remember them making this a central argument in bringing children to the table.

  6. chaos said,

    June 30, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Lane and company,
    Mark Jones asked me if the above comment is from my beloved landlord Dr. Peter Jones from Westminster Seminary California. The answer is ‘nope.’ I called him at his office and asked. How could he be? He’s a greek scholar and NT prof. Sorry for the brief note from our sponsors. Let the games continue :)
    Great stuff!
    phil

  7. Peter Jones said,

    June 30, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Sorry for the confusion. I should have known that would occur. It has happened before. I am a thirty-one year old father of five in Morgantown, WV and not nearly as smart as the other Peter Jones the elder.

  8. chaos said,

    June 30, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Hahaha. Too bad you both share such a rare name. Don’t worry he wasn’t offended. He’s too busy for that.

  9. Ron Smith said,

    June 30, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt was His faithfulness to (i.e. remembrance of) His Covenant with Abraham. The Passover was part of that deliverance. Therefore, God remembered at the Passover.

    Surely you are not arguing that the absence of the phrase “and I will remember” in the Passover account means that God therefore did no remembering at the Passover. Exodus 12 is instruction toward God’s people concerning the Passover ritual and thus contains their duties concerning the meal. God had already affirmed earlier to Moses that He was remembering His Covenant.

    But I agree with you that this has nothing to do with whether or not children ought to be permitted to their Lord’s Table. Barring covenant children from Communion until they can, in our estimation, adequately display the ability to partake of it worthily is like barring them from speaking until they can articulate perfectly or better yet, keeping them from praying until we are certain they “really mean it”. No, we teach them the forms (“fold your hands, close your eyes, and bow your heads”) and trust that God uses this instruction to get at their hearts. I can say personally, with regard to prayer and the Lord’s Supper, this has been the case with my children.

  10. Kyle said,

    June 30, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Ron, re: 9,

    Barring covenant children from Communion until they can, in our estimation, adequately display the ability to partake of it worthily is like barring them from speaking until they can articulate perfectly or better yet, keeping them from praying until we are certain they “really mean it”.

    No one expects perfect articulation, but the Lord requires self-examination and discernment of His body in the Supper. Infants are not capable of this. Most small children, unable to distinguish between good and evil, do not demonstrate this ability. Therefore, they are not admitted lest they profane the Supper. So, we catechize and instruct them with a view toward bringing them to the Table, and admit them when they show themselves ready.

  11. Peter Jones said,

    July 1, 2008 at 4:45 am

    I agree with Ron in #9. He is right that in the entire context of the covenant, the Exodus was a remembrance (Exodus 2:24). But even in the immediate context of the Passover God is remembering. If God is not “remembering” then what is the blood on the doorposts for? It was not there primarily for the people to look at, but for the Angel of Death. I think it would be difficult to separate the blood on the doorposts from the cup of salvation at the table. The Sacraments are enacted prayers. They are, of course more than this, but in them we thank God for his deliverance and plead with God to continue to deliver His people through the work of Christ.

  12. Ron Smith said,

    July 1, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Kyle, re:10

    No one expects perfect articulation, but the Lord requires self-examination and discernment of His body in the Supper.

    Agreed, which is why children ought to be taught to do so, and part of teaching is practice.

    The threat in 1 Corinthians 11:29 was not directed to children being taught to discern, but rather to adults who were behaving badly. When Paul criticizes the Corinthian Church in vs 17 saying, “your meetings do more harm than good,” he wasn’t referring to all the children being served communion. He was referring to the ones *keeping others in the Body from being served* (vs 21-22). They were the ones failing to discern the Body. They were the ones partaking in an unworthy manner. They were the ones drinking judgment upon themselves.

    In the paedocommunion debate, which side are the ones *keeping others in the Body from being served*?

  13. July 1, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Kyle,

    You said:

    “Infants are not capable of this. Most small children, unable to distinguish between good and evil, do not demonstrate this ability. Therefore, they are not admitted lest they profane the Supper.”

    This seems so antithetical to the fact that Christ himself said forbid not the children to come to me. But then we forbid our own covenant children to come to Christ very table. Just my two cents.

    Blessings,
    Terry

  14. July 1, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Also, the fact that very young child is incapable of discerning is no argument against excluding them from the table anymore than the fact an infant can’t believe excludes them from baptism.

  15. July 1, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Correction, I meant to say “no argument FOR excluding them from the table”.

  16. Bruce said,

    July 1, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Spoken like a true baptist!
    They prohibit them to both, on the same grounds.
    You would admit them to both, on the same grounds.
    Both parties have an overrealized eschatology.

    You need to show that the grounds for either cannot differ from the other.

  17. Kyle said,

    July 2, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Ron, re: 12,

    The threat in 1 Corinthians 11:29 was not directed to children being taught to discern, but rather to adults who were behaving badly.

    The threat is directed to whoever eats & drinks.

    In the paedocommunion debate, which side are the ones *keeping others in the Body from being served*?

    Cheap rhetorical points. In the paedocommunion debate, which side are the ones in greater continuity with the historic Reformed faith?

  18. Kyle said,

    July 2, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Terry, re: 13,

    This seems so antithetical to the fact that Christ himself said forbid not the children to come to me. But then we forbid our own covenant children to come to Christ very table. Just my two cents.

    We prevent them from partaking of the Supper until such time as they show themselves capable of self-examination & discerning Christ’s body. We do not forbid them from coming to Christ.

    Also, the fact that very young child is incapable of discerning is no argument against excluding them from the table anymore than the fact an infant can’t believe excludes them from baptism.

    Well, you can take that up with our Lord, if you want, for He very clearly requires that those who would partake of His Supper examine themselves & rightly discern His body in I Cor. 11:27-29. As for baptism, the ground for admitting infants is the profession of the parent(s), not of the infant.

  19. its.reed said,

    July 2, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Friends:

    It seems to me that the Achilles heel of credo-communion is this 1 Corinthians passage on self-examination. I have smypathy with how and why the conversation has moved to this subject.

    Lane’s post here is about something other however, the question of whether or not “remember” has any force in determining which way to answer this question. Let’s stick to this question. In a subsequent post, we can ask Lane to give more focused attention to the self-examination subject (Lane?).

    As much as I want to interact with you on this (my own study has persuaded me the self-examination subject is the do-or-die point for my credo-communion convictions), consider this a gentle reminder to stay on topic. Admittedly, these subjects are closely tied together, and it makes staying on topic that much harder. But let’s try.

    Thanks!

  20. greenbaggins said,

    July 2, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I do plan on giving a very detailed exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11. So, we can afford to stay on topic right now.

  21. Ron Smith said,

    July 2, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Kyle, re: 17

    “The threat is directed to whoever eats & drinks.”

    Firstly, if you rip the statement from its context, sure. Are you saying the word “whoever” never has any qualifications? Because you can’t have it both ways (and this gets us back to the original context of Ex 12). Exodus 12:15 says, “… whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel.” Does this include the children as well? But I thought the children weren’t included in the Passover ritual? Why can’t they eat yeast?

    This does nothing to the view that universals like “whoever”, or “everyone”, or “all” have qualifications given their context. But if you hold to a mathematical 100% view concerning those words, you run into contradictions like the aforementioned.

    Secondly, even if it is granted that the threat is directed to the children, you still have to prove that a child partaking immaturely is equivalent to a child partaking unworthily. The sin that Paul was talking about that made one unworthy to partake was a failure to discern the Body by the exclusion of members of that Body. Those people doing the excluding were taking the Supper in an unworthy manner. Covenant children aren’t excluding anyone. They just want to be included which means on their level, they are discerning the Body. They are discerning that they are part of the Body. Paedocommunion encourages that discernment.

  22. its.reed said,

    July 2, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Ref. 21:

    Ron, a few comments:

    1. I can see where you are tying this back into Lane’s original point. Yet I think you’re not actually dealing with the substance of his argument, but rather using it to launch an argument in a completely different direction than Lane’s. Nothing wrong with this, just that it is not on topic.

    2. I’d love to respond to what I see as some assumptions on your part here that you have not proven. Yet, following my own request, I’ll leave that friendly debate alone for the post on which Lane specifically deals with the “self-examination” question.

    3. How about this,

    > In what ways is the remembrance in view in Passover differ from or similar to the remembrance in view in the Lord’s Supper?

    > In what ways do these insights support or detract, or is it immaterial to the question of children’s participation in the Lord’s Supper?

    It seems to me that these questions are focused specifically on what Lane is trying to get at. Developing our ideas about these will advance our agreement or disagreement. Albeit, this will be a small area of advancement, yet getting it out of the way will help us move forward in the bigger conversation.

    What do ya think?

  23. Kyle said,

    July 2, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Ron, re: 21,

    In respect of Reed’s note in # 19, I’ll not be making a response in this thread on the matter of I Cor. 11:27-29.

  24. David Gadbois said,

    July 2, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Lane,

    I have never heard of this pro-paedocommunion take on I Corinthians 11. It is bizarre, and prima facie doesn’t make any sense. If it is admitted that the phrase in this verse, along with the counterpart in the Gospel of Luke, is in the imperative mood, then we end up with:

    [you all] do this as God’s remembrance of me [Jesus].

    So we are being commanded to do something that God is doing, or *as* something God is doing, or on behalf of something God is doing? This is all new to me, so I admit I may be missing the boat here. How does the pro-PC side understand this phrase if we are to adopt their translation of ἀνάμνησιν?

  25. July 2, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Lane, RE #20,

    You may want to take a look at my post on Federal Vision Lingnastics where I exegeted two passages on self-examination.

  26. Andrew said,

    July 2, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I agree that the meaning of the word ἀνάμνησιν in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 does not provide evidence one way or the other as to whether children may participate in the Supper. The question we need to answer is whether or not Paul considered children to be part of the “body”. For it is the body that we are to discern. And it is the body that should eat as one.

    I look forward to your full exposition Lane.

    – Andrew Voelkel
    —————-
    20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. …

    29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. …

    33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another- 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home- so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. …

    12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. …

    22 …the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.


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