What Does It Mean to Be Bread?

Doug has responded to my response in this post. A couple of thoughts are in order.

Firstly, I would like to ask what Doug means when he says that all those who are bread should get bread? I thought Jesus was the bread of life. I don’t ever remember seeing a passage where we are described as bread. There are lots of passages that describe how we should eat. Some clarification here would be helpful.

My guess is that the debate will have to keep circling around 1 Corinthians 11 in spite of the fact that it is Venema’s last chapter in the book. The argument concerning the nature of the examination is a very important point. Doug asks the question this way: “what are they to be looking for as they conduct the examination? The entire context of this passage has to do with the quarrelsome factiousness of the Corinthian church, and nothing directly to do with their cognitive understanding of the Gospel.'” In Venema’s book, he deals with this interpretation on pp. 104-107 in terms of description, and pp. 117-122 by way of critique and positive exegesis of the passage. The short answer is that there is a shift in verse 27 from a focus on particular abuses (such as the divisions in the body) to a focus on a more general application of how the Supper is to be taken. Grammatical indicators are the shift from second person plural (“You all”) in vv. 17-20,22 to a third person perspective (“whoever” (v. 27), “a man” (v. 28), and “he” (v. 29)). As Venema puts it, “Thought the apostle began his treatment of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 with a description of the inappropriate behavior of some members of the Corinthian church, he now moves to a series of general instructions that apply to all members of the covenant community” (p. 117, emphasis original; also ibid. for the above grammatical argumentation). This is certainly Calvin’s interpretation as well (see commentary on 1 Cor, p. 385, modern translation, p. 251).



  1. Michael Saville said,

    March 30, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Check out 1 Corinthians 10:17 in the KJV or NKJV.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    March 30, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Thanks, Michael. I see that the difference in translation is due to a punctuation difference. The Stephanus text underlying the KJV and NKJV has no comma after “that one bread,” which would lead one to include it as part of the predicate tied to the “we are.” However, the modern translations are based on the the fact that there is a comma there, which would prohibit translating it as the KJV does, and rather makes it into a separate clause with an understood copulative: “that there is one loaf,” not tied at all to the pronoun “we.”

  3. March 30, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I am trying to locate just where the primary rub is here. I have many opinions about this debate, but I am trying to understand the folks on the other side of the fence (I am of Wilson – sort of). Just where is the major itch? Is the primary concern obedience to apostolic commands generally, or is the concern primarily the spiritual welfare of your young children? In other words, are you (the opposition) worried about offending a holy God through not following his worship instructions precisely enough or are you really mainly concerned that God is going to begin cursing your young children if they begin eating the bread and drinking the grape juice? Perhaps some would say, “both.” Fair enough, but then I would be interested to see just how “both” is nuanced as a reply.

    If the best way to adjudicate this issue is Paul’s letter to the church of Corinth (after threatening them with his rod of power and banning the man sleeping with his step mother), I can’t wait to see the debate on this exegetical point.

    (BTW, http://www.poohsthink.com – Pooh’s Think, Part 2 – is up and running again.)


  4. Lee said,

    March 30, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Rev. Wilson has stated that your view of the Lord’s Supper would fall into what Dr. Veneman classifies as “soft paedo-communion”. I was wondering if you might take a moment to respond to that claim. You did state that if a six year old could make a credible profession that he ought to be received to the table. Do you consider yourself a soft paedo-communionist and/or would Dr. Venema consider you one?

  5. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I suspect that DW is referring to Jeff Meyer’s argument in The Case for Covenant Communion. Meyers uses 1 Cor 10.16 – 17 to emphasize the connection between the sharing of the loaf and the unity of the body. On his read, Paul uses the loaf as a metaphor for the body.

    Take Meyers’ argument and couple that with a strong position on metaphors (Leithart!), and we have an identification of the church with the bread.

    Jeff Cagle

  6. curate said,

    March 31, 2009 at 12:36 am

    no. 2

    None of the texts have commas! The punctuation was added about five hundred years ago! All of the commas belong to the translators. The originals were all in upper case, having no spaces between words, and without punctuation.

  7. tim prussic said,

    March 31, 2009 at 4:12 pm


  8. Reformed Sinner said,

    April 1, 2009 at 8:33 am

    maybe I totally missed your sarcasm, if yes I apologize.

    While original Greek may not have grammar rules as we know of them today, certainly the translators may still be faithful if they translate out explicitly what was implicit. After all, surely you’re not suggesting we should rewrite all Bibles to cap letters with no spaces as being more faithful and a better translation.

  9. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 1, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I think he’s just pointing out that the commas are not inspired and therefore are subject to debate. He’s disputing the validity of

    “It has a comma, so
    “It means X.”

    In fact, the comma choice, made by the editors of the Greek Text, is based on a prior understanding of the meaning of the passage, so the argument above would be circular.

    (To be fair: Lane addresses this in the next post).

    Jeff Cagle

  10. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    April 1, 2009 at 11:09 am

    The problem with Venema’s argument is this: v. 30 goes right back to those markers of the Corinthian church specifically (many among you), and v. 33 applies this to exactly the same context that Paul opened with in v. 20 (coming together…to eat), thus establishing an inclusio that indicates that Paul’s primary concern throughout is the specific problems in Corinth. Furthermore, v. 30 begins with “therefore,” or “because of this”–i.e., the problem he has just mentioned–the Corinthians are under judgment, so that the antecedent reason should have to do with how the Corinthians are abusing the supper, which is all about the church, not the physical flesh and blood of Jesus. Finally, v. 29 refers to “discerning” the body, and v. 31 refers to “discerning” (same verb) ourselves. Here’s how Paul’s syllogism works:

    If believers discern themselves, then they would not be judged. (v. 31)
    The Corinthians are being judged (v. 30)
    Therefore, the Corinthians do not discern themselves. (modus tollens)

    So, the reason they are being judged is that they do not discern themselves, but the reason why they are being judged is, according to the open phrase of v. 30, that they do not discern the body. This seems to make a pretty good case that body in v. 29 refers to the believers, which means that it does connect to the meaning of body in 10:17, etc.

  11. Curate said,

    April 1, 2009 at 11:12 am

    That’s right Jeff. It is wrong to say that this text has the comma in that place, but the other one doesn’t. Neither has commas. They are a judgement call by the translators.

  12. Curate said,

    April 1, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Sarcasm? I am pointing out a relevant fact. Comma placement can completely change the meaning of a text, and they are a judgement call in the end.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: