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.