Connections of the Lord’s Supper

Just to know where we are currently, this post and this post have not yet received a response from Doug.

What we are going to do in this post is a bit of intertextuality. This practice, by the way, can be defined as seeing what echoes of the Old Testament are in a particular New Testament passage, although it is not limited to this. For there are echoes of the OT in other OT passages as well, and the same for the NT. But the main issue in scholarship these days concerning this facet is the New Testament’s use of the Old. The passage we want to examine is Matthew 26:28.

τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.

In translation (as literal as possible): For this is my blood of the testament (or covenant), which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Quite simply put, the question is this: what is the Old Testament background for this statement? Is it the Passover, or something else? I would argue, with Venema that it is something else (see Venema, page 87). The particular echo is that of Exodus 24:8, which reads this way in Hebrew:

וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת־הַדָּם וַיִּזְרֹק עַל־הָעָם וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה דַם־הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר

כָּרַת יְהוָה עִמָּכֶם עַל כָּל־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה׃

This way in Greek: λαβὼν δὲ Μωυσῆς τὸ αἷμα κατεσκέδασε τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ εἶπεν· ἰδοὺ τὸ αἷμα τῆς διαθήκης, ἧς διέθετο Κύριος πρὸς ὑμᾶς περὶ πάντων τῶν λόγων τούτων.

Translation (of the Hebrew): And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people and said, “Look, the blood of the covenant which the Lord cut with you, according to all these words.”

A couple of points to notice here: 1. the phrase “the blood of the covenant” is the important linking phrase. 2. The phrase is fairly rare, occurring in the Old Testament in only one other place, which is Zechariah 9:11. Interestingly, in Zechariah 9, the phrase comes just after the prophecy concerning the king coming to Zion lowly and riding on a donkey. We can say, therefore, that the phrase definitely points us to Christ. 3. In the New Testament, the majority of occurrences are in the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Mt 26:28, Mk 14:24, Lk 22:20, 1 Co 11:25). However, there are a few occurrences of the phrase in Hebrews (9:20, 10:29, and of course in 13:20). They are certainly all connected to Jesus’ sacrifice. That is the way it is used in all Scripture, which gives us additional confidence that Exodus 24 points us the same way. Notice the one key difference, however, in our passage in Matthew. Jesus inserts a key word: “my.” It is HIS blood that is now the blood of the covenant. That is because He is the perfect lamb sacrificed.

So, from this evidence, we can say that Jesus is the new Moses, offering the new blood of the new covenant, which sprinkles those in the new covenant unto salvation. Now, the point of this is not that only the leaders of the church should participate. Remember, a direct appeal to the Old Testament should not be definitive for New Testament practice (see Venema, p. 60). Rather, we see here that this evidence makes the appeal ambiguous. No one denies that the Passover is one of the precedents for the Lord’s Supper. However, Exodus 24 seems to me to be just as clear a precedent, especially given the extremely similar wording. Those who participated in this covenant renewal ceremony were representatives of the community. We can therefore phrase the question this way: in terms of Old Testament precedent for who belongs in the participation of the Lord’s Supper, which has greater weight, the Passover (which evidence is already ambiguous, see previous posts), or the covenant renewal ceremony? We are NOT arguing that the Lord’s Supper should be limited to the leadership of the church. Rather, all we seek to demonstrate is that the supposedly direct line from Passover to Lord’s Supper is not a direct line, and has other parallel lines intersecting with it, and muddying up the footprints, as it were. All that is needed with regard to the Old Testament evidence is to point out that it is ambiguous, and does not prove what PC advocates claim it does. Of course, the real debate begins and ends with 1 Corinthians, to which we shall turn in the next few posts.

26 Comments

  1. Mark said,

    July 7, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks Pastor Lane for this helpful post. I was going to say that 1 Cor. 11 is the place that sticks out in my mind as the next pin that needs to fall… I look forward to the next posts.

    Here’s where I’m having difficulty… Since children in the wilderness wanderings did eat the manna from heaven and drink from the rock (which was Christ), we can assume that Children under Moses ate and drank Christ. Not only that, but we can also assume fairly easily that many did it in an unworthy manner can’t we, since most of them fell in the wilderness (because of their lack of faith, not because of their eating and drinking Christ)? There is no warning for unregenerate Israelites recorded. Since Paul is drawing a comparison of the old covenant feast to the new, isn’t it understandable that many would draw the conclusion that little children ought to be welcome, especially considering the early church’s practice of including them?

    The question is… what constitutes “unworthy manner”. For now I am of the opinion that it means lording over one another, getting drunk, treating the body of Christ with contempt. In a church like that I would expect people to start keeling over dead. I would not expect a little child, baptized into Christ (though perhaps unregenerate) to get sick and die from eating and drinking Christ.

    I’m NOT federal vision by any stretch, but this passage is very troubling to me. I’m new to this discussion and am not trained in the ministry, so please forgive any ignorant statements made above. If you can convince me that my above argument is flawed, I will be very grateful — believing in a Paedocommunion position is not very comfortable, especially when one is not Federal Vision.

    In Christ,
    Mark

  2. greenbaggins said,

    July 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    A couple of things in response, Mark.

    First of all, the direction of the argument in 1 Corinthians 10-11 really goes the other way. Chapter 11 limits and defines what Paul says in chapter 10. Yes, there are parallels, but there are also discontinuities. The nature of the Sacrament now is not that of physical sustenance, as it was for the Israelites. That was the only way the Israelites could survive. Of course, more will be forthcoming when we get to the passage in particular.

  3. Mark said,

    July 7, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks – I’ll stay tuned! :)

  4. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    The blood of the covenant was sprinkled on the people: that is, the entire congregation assembled together. So, the direct application of the phrase “blood of the covenant” is on the entire people, not on the elders. Furthermore, the giving of those words by Jesus is in the context of the Passover meal, so that both Passover and covenant renewal are together (and, of course, the annual Passover was a covenant renewal ceremony…). I don’t see the “either/or” you seem to be claiming: “the precedent for the supper is not the Passover, but the covenant renewal ceremony.” It’s both/and, taking into account the context and the words. So, both the Passover and the covenant renewal ceremony (and the former was a particular form of the latter) are precedents for the Supper.

    And the evidence for participation in the annual Passover is not ambiguous: all Israel was required to attend, not only the males.

  5. Andrew said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Lane,

    Firstly, my take (humbly submitted) is that your earlier attempt to create ‘ambiguity’ around the passover was decisively rebutted in the comments (by Joshua, I think). But I suppose that is a personal reflection.

    Secondly, even allowing all you say here, the CC case is advanced not a wit. You say the elders were ‘representatives of the covenant community’ (which seems fair enough). But then we are left saying that all of the people (jncluding children) took part via their representatives.

    But this principle – that communion (or its OT precedents) should involve the entire church as a symbol of unity – is precisely the one you are trying to refute!

    Thirdly, all these efforts to create ‘ambiguity’ in the OT gets you nowhere (other than perhaps throwing dust in people’s eyes). You have already conceeded that there is a clear example of children being included in the original passover. You have not given any clear examples of children being excluded. You have given one passage where the participation of children is not (on your reading) explicit.

    But on any exegesis I have ever heard of, the ambigous and tenuous does not cancel out the clear and explicit. The ‘ambiguity’ is entirely with the CCer’s dodgy examples, and the more you wax eloquent on how ‘muddy’ your examples are, the weaker your posistion becomes.

    Get real. Be a man. Accept that you are arguing for radical discontinuity from Old to New. Admit that the OT does not favour your posistion, but demonstrate the chage in I Cor. 11 (or wherever you think it occured).

    We can worry about what to say to the baptists later.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I agree that the Passover and covenant renewal ceremony are precedents for the Lord’s Supper. My point was more narrow: what is the precedent for Jesus’ specific statement concerning the blood of the covenant? That precedent is Exodus 24, not the Passover.

    As to participation in the annual Passover, not all Israel was *required* to attend. It is ambiguous as to whether women and children attended. At the most, one could say that they were allowed to attend, although I think that goes a tad beyond the evidence. There is a big difference between required and allowed, in any case.

  7. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Andrew, your superfluous and snarky comments notwithstanding, you seem to be assuming that credo-communion bears the burden of proof here, and that PC has zero burden of proof whatsoever. I cannot accept that, nor does a conscientious confessional stance refute that.

    We’ll just have to disagree on whether Joshua’s comments decisively rebutted me or not.

    On unity, there are several different kinds of unity. Just because we don’t have a unity of everyone participating in the Lord’s Supper head for head, does not mean that there isn’t a unity of spirit and purpose in the Lord’s Supper that is more than amply demonstrated by the Supper. You are equivocating on your definition of unity.

    What I am arguing for here is that there are many strands of evidence that factor in to the precedents of the Lord’s Supper. Some of them clearly allow children. Some of them are ambiguous. My point is that a direct line from Passover to Lord’s Supper without any other considerations does not do justice to the evidence. Several PC advocates have not argued nearly carefully enough when it comes to this matter.

    Ultimately, it all does come down to our exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11. I admit that freely, as does Venema. There is no 1 Corinthians 11 when it comes to baptism, so I don’t really have to worry about what I say to the Baptists.

  8. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    I’m getting a little frustrated with your logic, Lane. You’ve come down pretty strongly on the role of logic in the past, yes. But now, it seems to me, you have made the fallacy of false dichotomy a standard move in your argument. First, you set up a false dichotomy on Ex. 12-13, insisting that it is only about the original celebration, when it is clearly applicable to the annual celebration as well (vv. 12:14 ,17, 24-25, 48–“a native of the land” clearly indicates post-settlement; 13:5, 10). Now, you set up a false dichotomy on the background(s) of the LS: it’s Passover or covenant renewal–but the very fact that Christ did something new in the very context of the Passover meal indicates that, one phrase aside, there are clearly deep connections between Passover and Supper.

  9. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    So, if I did not in fact rebut your view, what exactly did I miss?

  10. Todd said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Mark,

    The rock in the wilderness was not a sacrament. It was a picture. You are reading too much into that passage. Paul’s point is simply that outward privileges do not necessarily equal inward salvation, both in the old and new covenant. Trying to stretch it to liken the rock with the Lord’s Supper as two sacraments goes beyond the point of the passage.

  11. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Okay, in comment 7 you seem to be modifying the dichotomy:

    “there are many strands of evidence that factor in to the precedents of the Lord’s Supper”

    But in your original post, you said:

    “Is it the Passover, or something else? I would argue, with Venema that it is something else”

    “in terms of Old Testament precedent for who belongs in the participation of the Lord’s Supper, which has greater weight, the Passover…or the covenant renewal ceremony?”

    Perhaps you can see how I read those as false dichotomies…

    And again, the “blood of the covenant” phrase is applied to the entire congregation, so it still seems to include everyone.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I DID NOT SAY THAT IT’S PASSOVER *OR* COVENANT RENEWAL AS THE BACKGROUND TO THE LS!!!!! I just finished saying this as clearly as I know how. I said my point was NARROWER as to the precise statement that Jesus made concerning the blood of the covenant. I was NOT making a point about the precedent of the LS as a whole, but about the precise statement concerning the blood of the covenant, which comes from Exodus 24, and not the Passover. I hope this is clear by now, because if it isn’t, I give up. As to the other, I don’t have time to dig it up again right now.

  13. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    And context of Zechariah’s use is interesting in itself:

    “By the blood of your covenant, I have freed your prisoners from the pit…”

    I would compare this with Romans 6:6-7, in which we are freed by Christ’s death…but the sign of that is baptism. Thus, it could be taken to argue that baptism, the sign of freedom from sin and death, is the “blood of the covenant.” But if infants can receive the blood of the covenant in baptism, why can’t they receive it in the Supper? Well, not just because of the “blood of the covenant” phrase–that phrase is universal to the covenant people in Ex. 24, and seems to be pointing to baptism in Zech 9.

    It really does come down to 1 Cor. 11.

  14. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Lane, don’t “yell” at me. Look again at this quote:

    “in terms of Old Testament precedent for who belongs in the participation of the Lord’s Supper, which has greater weight, the Passover…or the covenant renewal ceremony?”

    The clear answer you seem to be giving is “it’s the covenant renewal ceremony, not the Passover.” You’re presenting two options: either the Passover or the c.r.c. (!) has greater weight for who should participate. But why not equal weight? Why can they not both be taken together as informing the view of the Supper?

  15. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    But you were saying, Joshua, that I was issuing a false dichotomy. It is not a false dichotomy to ask which precedent has greater weight in determining participation in the LS. A false dichotomy would be a false either/or. Since I did not posit an either/or to begin with, I cannot be guilty of a false dichotomy. The answer to the question could actually, logically, be that they have equal weight. I did not think that was the correct answer, but I wasn’t automatically ruling out the possibility by the way I phrased the question. Therefore, I am not guilty, nor was I ever guilty, in this instance, of creating a false dichotomy. I strive for clarity above all things. It is even more frustrating when something that seems fairly clear is judged to be unclear by someone who didn’t read it carefully enough.

  16. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    And I must say, it seems you’ve again misread the facts:

    “Those who participated in this covenant renewal ceremony were representatives of the community.”

    This is not true of the sprinkling of the blood–that was for the entire “people.” The following meal on the mountain was only for the elders, but that’s not what the “blood of the covenant” phrase is referring to.

    Now, to be fair, there is a possible CC case to made from Ex. 24 nevertheless: notice that the people are viewed as responding to the reading of the covenant in vv. 3 & 7. So, we could say that it is only by profession that the people enter into the blood of the covenant. But I’m not sure that works, given the connection of the “blood of the covenant” with baptism that can be proposed from Zech. 9.

  17. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    The blood was sprinkled on the people, but only the elders of Israel ate the covenant meal (verse 11).

  18. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Ah. I took the question to be rhetorical, with the answer intended to be clearly one. My apologies.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Fair enough. :-) Back to other more civilized forms of bludgeoning.

  20. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    True. Interestingly, at the original LS, only the apostles–the elders of the NC–took the Supper. So, the covenant meal of 24:8 is a precedent for the original LS, but not the repeated (weekly!) Supper. Thus, the fact that the elders participated no more excludes the congregation of Israel than the apostles-only first LS excludes any of the NC congregation.

    I’m wondering: some of these texts seem to be pushing toward a “participation by representative” position (Calvin’s view of Deut. 16:16, and this view of Ex. 24:8). What would be the status of such a position relative to NC infants? If we were to say that they are participating federally, since their believing parents participate, what status would that position have? Is it confessional? Would it “break the teeth” of the PC position, by their own suppositions of consistent covenantalism? I suppose it would still leave us with the question of when covenant children may or ought to come as individuals, not under their parents’ authority…

  21. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 8, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    I still stand by the statement on Ex. 12-13, though…

  22. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Joshua, I am formulating a response to this as a response to Doug Wilson’s most recent post on PC, which asks some of these very same questions.

  23. Andrew said,

    July 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Lane,

    Apologies for being ‘snarky’. I will try to avoid any offensiveness, even if it makes things duller!

    However, you do indeed have the burden of proof, on your own admission. Concerning the OT, you have three options:

    a) the OT background is irrelvant to the discussion. But in that case there is no need to be discussing it, and as a Presbyterian I assume you don’t say this.

    b) to say that the OT background is relevant. In going to the bother of discussing the various passages, you seem to say this. But your investigations have left you with this conclusion: “Some of them clearly allow children. Some of them are ambiguous.” Since ambiguity cannot trump clarity, you have concluded that the OT favours children participating. But then you state that the whole thing is ambigous, which bears no correlation to the passages you have cited.

    c) argue that things have changed in the NT, arguing from I Cor 11.

    The third is obviously the only way to go about it, and I don’t mind you attempting it. It don’t deny that God can change things in the NT. But it is intensely irritating to have you surveying the OT passages, quoting Greek and whatnot, and then denying your own conclusions.

    Look at it this way. Imagine you are arguing that the OT teaches the Trinity. You come up with 5 (or whatever, the number is not important) clear, unambigous examples. Your opponent can give no passages which deny the Trinity. In addition, there are several ambigous passages (e.g indicate a pluraity in God, but might be explainable by e.g. a ‘royal we’)

    So some clear texts for you, none for your opponent and several which don’t prove either side. Who wins? You do. The ambigous ones are left to the side, and you win.

    Likewise, there a clear examples of children being included (and you admit this). There are no counter examples of children being excluded. There are possibly some passages which don’t mention it either way – the ‘ambigous’ ones.

    So the PCer wins, and does so clearly (not perhaps, the overall arguement, but this part – you can always show how the NT changes things).

    Trying to find ‘ambigous’ texts does not help you at all. If you can provide (and I don’t deny the possibility) clear examples of exclusion, then we can declare a draw and move on.

    This more about the structure of the arguement than the substance. But there are many here with better knowldege of logic than me. Does anyone else see the flaw in these posts on the OT, or alternatively, can they point out where I am barking up the wrong tree (always possible).?

  24. Andrew said,

    July 8, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    P.S

    We have to see what you say, but many baptists may see an uncanny resemblence between what CCer’s say about ‘Examine yourself, and eat’ and what the baptists say about ‘Repent, and be baptized’.

  25. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    July 12, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Andrew, my position on whether the so-called ambiguity is actually there in the OT is clear at this point (and not, I think, decisively refuted: Ex. 12-13 still have not been addressed, nor Deut. 12). But as for logic, I do share something of the same concern. Perhaps we could coin a fallacy called “muddying the waters”? It’s related to the fallacy of “ad ignorantiam”–the appeal to ignorance. This is basically the idea that no one has disproven my position, so therefore my position is proven. Instead of giving a clear argument for one’s own position, one simply says that the opposing argument don’t disprove it–but that’s not sufficient. Just asserting ambiguity is not the same thing as an argument for the CC position–even if the ambiguity were real, which it isn’t.

  26. Andrew Lohr said,

    January 10, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    To the heart! Are we showing Christ’s death? Yes. Did he die for covenant children? Yes. So can we bar them from the showing? No.

    I Cor 11:27-29 are tied into the context (“For… wherefore… But… For… For… start verses 26-30): examine yourself to make sure you’re including everyone who ought to be included. CC examine ourselves for every sin except the one we’re supposed to be examining for, the one we’re in the very act of committing!

    Sorry to be so late here. My website, http://www.lohr84.com, has a section giving 19 PC arguments and answering 30+ CC objections (though my position may be more soft CC than hardline PC). The topic interests me enough to find this.


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