Bread and Generalizations

Several issues need to be addressed before moving on. Doug’s post is here.

First up is whether my position is paedo-communion, of the so-called “soft” variety. Ultimately, I would have to say yes, but that would need some qualification. I do not think that most 6-year-olds would be able to understand the significance of the Lord’s Supper. Maybe I have seen too many modern-day public school educated 6-year-olds. My daughter is 5 and nowhere near ready, in my opinion, and she will not be publicly educated, at least for the first grades. In fact, to my knowledge, she hasn’t even asked about what the bread and the wine mean yet. We’re still working on what Jesus Christ means, and His sacrifice. After that, we’ll move on to the physical sign He has given us of His Person and work.

The second issue is the comma in the text of 1 Corinthians 10:17. Of course the comma was not original to the Greek text. I was not seeking to make a theological point about it, but rather seeking to explain why modern translations read differently than the KJV and NKJV. The exegetical question is whether the phrase “for/because/that (there is) one bread/loaf” is a subordinate clause to the rest of the sentence, as the more modern translations interpret it, or whether it is actually part of the predicate, as the KJV/NKJV translates it. In other words, should the translation be “because there is one loaf, we (though many) are one body,” thus making the loaf a point of analogy with the church? Or should it be translated as the KJV has it “For we being many are one bread and one body,” thus making the bread a description of the people themselves? Several points need to be made. First of all, as Fee notes (p. 469 of his commentary), there is a chiasm with the mention of bread, many, all, bread. On the KJV reading, this chiasm would not exist, since the A and B would be reversed in word order for good English translation. Second point: the preposition “out of” (Greek “ek”) should not be read as saying that we are out of one bread, but rather that we share out of one loaf. Fee notes that it is a Hebraism, and should be translated “all eat from the one loaf” (p. 470, n. 35). Fitzmyer disputes the KJV translation as well (via rejecting Conzelmann’s interpretation), arguing that “that is not what Paul has written, because we are not ‘one bread.’ The ‘one bread,’ of which we partake makes us ‘one’; it unifies us” (p. 391). Thiselton has reminded us of Meyer’s caution that “the unity of the bread [is understood] not numerically…but qualitatively,” and that “The meaning is more likely to spring from the generic oneness of bread as “one kind of thing” (p. 770). Thiselton acknowledges the other translation immediately after, but seems to dismiss it. The ESV and NIV seem, on the whole, better translations, as they show the chiasm clearly.

Thirdly, I note that Doug has not engaged whatsoever Venema’s argument that 11:27 involves a broadening of perspective to include not just the particular abuse that some of the Corinthians had, but rather to delineate how anyone ought to observe the Lord’s Supper. Even if Doug’s reading of 10:17 is correct, then, it falls to the ground when one realizes that it comes before 11:27.