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For in eating every one taketh before [other] his own supper: and one is hungry, and δὲ another is drunken.
-- 1 Corinthians 11:21 (KJV)

The issue at hand is whether Paul is speaking to the same group of people or different groups. In Scriverners Textus Receptus 1894, the passage is:

εκαστος γαρ το ιδιον δειπνον προλαμβανει εν τω φαγειν και ος μεν πεινα ος δε μεθυει

I would translate this as, "who indeed (men) is hungering, who yet δὲ is being drunk", which makes it seem as though he is talking about the same group. They are hungry, yet δὲ they become drunk. Most translations see this as two different groups. "This" group and "that" group.

Additionally, when text mentions their "own supper", was that the Lord's supper or some other meal that they had brought?

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  • Perhaps of interest: ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf112.iv.xxviii.html – user33515 Oct 27 '17 at 15:34
  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. I have added the KJV text of the verse for comparison. You say, "Most translations see this as two different groups", but the text of the translations is not explicit, so your assertion needs to be supported by evidence. – enegue Oct 27 '17 at 23:26
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Let's look at the Greek text (TR 1894):

εκαστος γας το ιδιον δειπνον προλαμβανει εν τω φαγειν και ος μεν πεινα ος δε μεθυει

The two words I've highlighted are men and de. When appearing close together in a statement, they constitute a contrast which means "on the one hand" and "on the other hand." (1)

In the KJV this is translated: "For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken."

There is only one group, the Corinthian congregation which comes together for a communal supper. Apparently, each individual (or family) brought its own food and did not share. Consequently, one the one hand, some went hungry. On the other hand, some got drunk.

Now this meal, improperly observed as it was, was in some way related to the Lord's Supper, for Paul goes on in the following verses (1 Cor. 11:23-31) to describe the proper way of observing the Lord's Supper.

Because Jesus instituted the Communion service within the context of an actual supper (see Matt. 26:28 - whether is was the Passover supper or not is disputed) the early Church combined the Communion with a meal, and this meal came to be known as the Agape. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (2) states the following:

The term is used in a technical sense in the New Testament to indicate the love feasts (cf. Jude 12) of the early Christians, communal meals which provided religious fellowship and were a means of charity to the poor, widowed, and orphaned of the community. . . .

Apparently the love feast was originally associated with the Eucharist or Lord's Supper (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:11; cf. 1 Cor. 11:20-21), but by the second century the two had become distinct observances.

It may have been Paul's very instructions to the Corinthians which resulted in a separation between the Agape and the Lord's Supper, due to the abuse of the former. Paul concluded his instructions: "Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come." (1 Cor. 11:33-34, KJV)

So to answer your question: There was one group, but individuals within that group behaved very differently.


(1) See Machen, J. Gresham. New Testament Greek for Beginners. The MacMillan Company. Toronto, Canada. 1923. Page 263.

(2) Revised edition by Allen C. Myers. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI. 1987. Page 26.

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  • Where do you find these agape meals? The reference of Jude could be figurative language or in the sense of what I have read, it was simply describing their worship assembly as a whole as Tertullian points out in Apology, CCEL, 39. – Theyo Elam Oct 27 '17 at 17:13
  • @ Theyo Elam My source for the Agape was Eerdmans. This dictionary also quoted Tertullian with the claim that by his time the Agape and the Eucharist had been separated. – Pilgrim Oct 27 '17 at 18:57
  • @Theyo Elam Tertullian, Apology 39: "Our feast explains itself by its name. The Greeks call it agape, i.e., affection." – Pilgrim Oct 27 '17 at 19:14
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The original, from the Stephens 1550 text as translated by the Bagster interlinear, is :

'. . not it is Lord's supper to eat. For each one his own supper takes first in eating and one is hungry and another is drunken.'

The Greek behind this is as follows and I would expect it to be identical to Scrivener's text. I have Scrivener on order, but I am fairly certain that the Stephens 1550 will be, in this place, the same :

ουκ εστιν κυριακον δειπνον φαγειν εκαστος γαρ το ιδιον δειπνον προλαυβανει εν τω φαγειν και ος μεν πεινα ος δε μεθυει

Paul says that what they are doing is not the Lord's supper. Instead, they are having their own supper, separately, not sharing. What they are doing is not a communal thing.

First, before doing anything else in their meeting, they are unpacking their own stuff and consuming it separately. Some have nothing, perhaps out of poverty or perhaps they were not able to rush from work and go get some victuals. They turned up empty-handed.

Thus, they go hungry.

Others - perhaps more well off - maybe retired, whatever, they turn up with plenty. Too much, in fact, for some of them over-indulge and get tipsy.

And Paul says - this is not the Lord's supper !

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  • Could this "own" supper be the same as the Lord's supper? – Theyo Elam Oct 27 '17 at 17:14
  • @TheyoElam Clearly not, because Paul says, This is not the Lord's supper - and then describes what follows. The Lord's supper is a distinct matter, as Jesus instituted it (a communal thing and something different from merely having a meal together). And Paul is describing a situation which was not that. – Nigel J Oct 27 '17 at 18:46
  • @TheyoElam Think there is too much "either-or" ... what they were doing, badly, was, as Nigel says, not "the" supper, but that does not preclude "the" supper from being a regular meat and potatoes communal meal, where the Lord is duly recognized. – robin Dec 3 '17 at 6:16

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