1Co 10:21  Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

Of what cup and table does he speak? I see these possibilities:

  • the Communion table
  • the Seder table
  • the table of the show bread
  • the altar (see Malachi 1:7)
  • the other altar: Heb 13:10  We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
  • Jesus' [royal] table: Luk_22:30  That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

KJV unless otherwise noted

  • @Lucian ? What do you mean?? – Ruminator Aug 9 at 18:31

Eucharistic/Passover 'Meal'

It's not very controversial that the Passover is replaced in the New Covenant by the Eucharist (whose names comes from that the Lord 'gave thanks'—ευχαριστησας—at His last supper—presumably a relatively long prayer which may validly be taken to account for what are later called 'liturgies:' what Jesus needs a few divine words to say, we are to be all the more grateful, and lengthy in our thanks, praise and petition). As the Passover commemorated freedom in the time of slavary to Egypt, and freedom from the death coming upon them, by the blood of a lamb marking their home, so the Eucharist commemorates the freedom of Christians from slavery to sin and the death coming upon the unrighteous, in the blood of the Lamb. Jesus invites them to a Passover as usually, but this time, all speak of a Lamb is left out, and instead the new Melchizedek (Heb 7:3b) makes use of the bread and the wine (Gn 14:18) and radically identifies Himself, the Lamb of God, as the new Passover (1 Cor 5:7).

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As such, no distinction is to be made between the Passover 'table,' at which Jews sat to eat the sacrificial meal, and the Christians' 'table,' who 'partake of' (1 Cor 10:16; Cf. Ex 12:8) the body and blood of "the Lamb of God who takest away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29).

The Table of the Showbread

This can't account for our reference here to 'table of the Lord,' since it is most clearly a reference to a table of sacrifice, the Table par excellence, God's altar, which, if St. Paul's parallels are to make sense, are in direct contrast to the altars to false gods, and the profitless sacrifices offered thereon.

Here, though, I think we can gather from its typological significance, a further symbol of the Last Supper, in that, just as this contained bread, 12 pieces of bread symbolizing the 12 apostles, wine was drank as the bread was consumed by the priest—once every week, just as is the custom for the weekly gathering of Christians for the Eucharist.

Another significant feature is that only the priest partook of the bread, symbolizing that Jesus made the twelve a kind of priesthood, now offering His Memorial (Lev 24:5-8) (the word 'priest' is derived directly from the word 'presbyter'). Cf. Mt 12:3-4. I find it significant that Jesus, before He had given the discourse in John 6, performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes (bread, flesh; manna, quail), and had the twelve distribute, almost in preparation for what they will be told on the night before His betrayal: "Do this for a commemoration of me" (as well noted by many authors of various stripes, this phrase contains sacrifical language used in the Old Testament).

The types and shadows are not exclusive, but speak to different aspects of the New Covenant fulfillment.

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The Table of the Lord — the Altar of Sacrifice

Protestants and others usually mean a 'supper' when they say or even read "The Table" of the Lord, as in the Last Supper. (Vestigial concepts remain nontheless, such as speak of the 'altar call'). Except, in the context in which St. Paul was writing, "the table of the Lord," especially when used in the context of sacrifice, is Old Testament terminology for the altar of sacrifice.

Malachi 1:10-14 (DRB)

Who is there among you, that will shut the doors, [that you kindle no more the fire on my altar, aimlessly?] I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not receive a gift of your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts. 12 And you have profaned it in that you say: The table of the Lord is defiled: and that which is laid thereupon is contemptible with the fire that devoureth it. 13 And you have said: Behold of our labour, and you puffed it away, saith the Lord of hosts, and you brought in of rapine the lame, and the sick, and brought in an offering: shall I accept it at your hands, saith the Lord? 14 Cursed is the deceitful man that hath in his flock a male, and making a vow offereth in sacrifice that which is feeble to the Lord: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the Gentiles.

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Early Christianity was unanimous in seeing this as a reference to the New Covenant sacrament of the Eucharist—even as early as the Didache (A.D. 70-90), the earliest known Christian teaching document/catechism outside the New Testament:

But every Lord’s day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, saith the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

Didache, 14

(Notice the possible reference to St. Paul when it says to 'confess your sins beforehand' partaking: "but let a man examine himself first, and so let eat of that bread, and drink of that cup" (1 Cor 11:28).)

This is of course a paraphrastic, retrospective reference to the passage in Malachi quoted above.

Cf. Apostolic Constitutions (A.D. 70-120), Book VII, cap. 30; Book VI, cap. 23.

An important early Christian apologist, Justin Martyr, writes (A.D. 150-160):

God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord: but ye profane it.’ [So] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it]. (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, 41)

Accordingly, God, anticipating all the sacrifices which we offer through this name, and which Jesus the Christ enjoined us to offer, i.e., in the Eucharist of the bread and the cup, and which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him. But He utterly rejects those presented by you and by those priests of yours, saying, ‘And I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles (He says); but ye profane it.’ (ibid., 117)

The early writers which attest to this apostolic view of the Eucharist need not be exhausted here, as the point is clear.

Therefore, in the New Covenant, the table/altar or table-as-an-altar (think of the homes used in the persecuted church for the Eucharist) on which is offered the Eucharist, has become the Table of the Lord ipso facto, by being the place where sacrifice is offered to God at fixed times. This is why St. Paul compares the table of the Lord with sacrifices offered to demons rather than to God. The sacrifices differ, and the gods differ, but not that it is a sacrifice—in which the parallel consists.

Jesus' Table in the Kingdom of Heaven

To be spiritualized are Jesus' references to a 'table' (Lk 22:30) and 'mansions' (Jn 14:2) and 'a marriage supper,' (Mt 22:2-14; Rev 19:6-9) in the Kingdom of Heaven. Both are in reference to the future when we are in heaven. They don't refer to St. Paul's concern about the Eucharist, which he relates in terms of the contrast with pagan sacrifices to their pagan gods.

"The Table of the Lord" in reference to sacrifices offered to Him (i.e. in contradistinction to altars whereupon are laid sacrifices to idols and false gods) is, make no mistake about it, a reference to the Altar where sacrifices are normatively offered to God.

He sees the Eucharist as a sacrifice to God is incompatible with ongoing idolatry and affiliation with paganism of any kind. Don't forget how groundbreaking and difficult the idea of abandoning idolatry in acceptance of the life of the Christian it is for these early communities, steeped in paganism!

"We Have an Altar"

Hebrews 13:10, like a few other references in the New Testament, seems to be purely spiritual, and yet might in fact be spiritualized references to actual physical realities.

Hebrews 10:13-16 (DRB)

10 We have an altar, whereof they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle. 11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the holies by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore to him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come. 15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips confessing to his name. 16 And do not forget to do good, and to impart; for by such sacrifices God's favour is obtained.

By Jesus we offer the sacrifice of praise. But it explicitly qualifies or explains what is meant by 'sacrifice of praise,' namely, the fruit of the lips confessing His name—prayer, worship, including the liturgical. If we take this to exclude the Eucharist's sacrificial nature, we make a mockery of the Old Testament and the New, wherein realities are spoken of symbolic and spiritual terms even when the realities themselves also exist. It would be strange for one apostle to make reference to eating the sacrifices of the altar in reference to the Eucharist, and then another use it in an exclusive sense not for the Eucharist—instead of one more directly and the other more spiritual.

For example, he clearly doesn't mean it exclusively, but spiritually, when he explains the offering of sacrifice both as offering Him praise, and, a bit later, as going good, and giving, again identifying these as the true sacrifices pleasing to God.

Note that while St. Paul references the Eucharist in terms of an altar, it need not be held that he was referring to even a plain table on which the Eucharist was then celebrated (which was most probably the case, given the universal use of altars when this became legal among other things), but to the notion of the sacrifice in general taking place being comparable to the Old Testament altar and those who partook thereof (1 Cor 10:18).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Susan Jul 30 at 20:13
  • We can't continue this discussion here, as it's unrelated to the question. (Thanks @Susan, by the way, for scrapping the lengthy debate in the comments, where it doesn't belong.) – Sola Gratia Jul 30 at 20:26
  • Mike - this is very informative, but is one of your longest answers I've seen so far. – Joseph Jul 31 at 4:20

My cards on the table: I agree with Ruminator's Question Restatement. But allow me to add two further elements.

It was definitely a seder which Jesus "extended/commandeered to be a remembrance of Jesus' death to ratify the new covenant" for all the reasons Ruminator states. Lat us observe some further facts:

The "cup" carries some significant baggage as it used in a literal sense quite sparingly. Matt 10:42, 23:25, 26, Mark 7:4, 9:41, Luke 11:39. It is used figuratively of one lot or experience (whether sorrowful or joyous) in Matt 20:22, 23, Mark 10:38, 39, 14:36, Luke 22:42, John 18:11, Rev 14:10, 16:19, 17:4, 18:6. It used in connection with the Last Supper in Matt 26:27, Mark 14:23, Luke 22:17, 20, 1 Cor 10:16, 21, 11:25-28. Only in 1 Cor 10:16 do we find the expression, "cup of blessing". 1 Cor 10:21, 11:27 uses he phrase, "Cup of the Lord".

All this "baggage" (especially Matt 20:22, 23) suggests that the cup also symbolised the type of life that Jesus was asking His followers to be prepared for - the cup of Christian life that included the sort of life that Jesus lead that His followers would also endure.

In 1 Cor 10, Paul is contrasting the cup of blessing and the cup of the Lord, with the cup of demons - the life offered by Jesus' enemies.

Paul only uses communion to make his point about idol worship here, he's not recommending any table or cup or any event- just emphasizing that communion is about sharing and those that participate will also share in the blessing or curses whether they now it or not. And he is very specific on meat sacrificed to demons and sold in the market. His message is - be aware, do not partake in them and think that because you worship one true God that you are safe, you are provoking God to jealousy and He will surely smite you.

People can argue and say Paul says we should eat everything sold in the market because everything is of the Lord who created everything, but Paul in his conclusion to this matter was very categorical on meat sacrificed to demons.

  • Welcome to BHSX - thanks for your contribution. This is not quite the question posed, despite containing some good points. Please remember to present you answers directly from the text itself and resist the temptation to answer theologically. This site is about hermeneutics not theology. – Dr Peter McGowan Aug 9 at 17:46

Both are metaphorical examples that you cannot serve more than one master, to say you cannot communion with Christ while you yet serve any devil.

To drink of the cup of the Lord is to drink of the wisdom and everlasting life of Christ (as His bride where we enter in through discipleship) as may be almost paralleled by to drink of wisdom and, to be partakers of the Lord's table is in reference to communion with Christ being a remembrance of the last supper.

Certainly as given by Luke 22:30 KJV

Question Restatement

In 1 Corinthians 10:21 what are the "cup and table" of the Lord?

Analysis

When Jesus said "this is my body" he was having a seder with his disciples, holding bread and passing a cup of wine around and announces:

Luk_22:15  And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:

Isn't that like Three Billboards of insistence that it was a Seder? So for what unholy reason would anyone want to say that it was, instead, a new ritual, like a Seder that Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, taught to his disciples:

  • eat a wafer. In great irony, the wafer is not only leavened, it is almost entirely composed of air!!! That's why it tastes and feels like an ironed spider's web
  • drink some grape juice from a thimble. This Catholics claim IS Jesus blood!
  • sing a hymn - but not the hymns of the "Great Blessing" (the psalms traditionally sung at the Seder)

That is never said. It was Passover, they were Jews so they were observing the Passover.

The bread was the bread of the Passover as described in scripture and discussed by Paul. The wine was "the fruit of the vine" and symbolized the blood of the covenant between God and the Jews:

Heb_8:10  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

So the "bread" and "table" were metony for the Seder, the Seder was the Jewish celebration of their deliverance from Egypt NOW EXTENDED/commandeered to be a remembrance of Jesus' death to ratify the new covenant between God and Israel.

KJV unless otherwise noted

  • The Bible and the early Church fathers teach that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. See mostholyfamilymonastery.com/the_Eucharist.pdf – Pascal's Wager Jul 30 at 19:52
  • I can't understand what you are trying to say. Do Jews not use tables, and cups, and bread, and wine, and grape-juice, and hymns at their Passover Seder meals ? – Lucian Jul 30 at 20:50
  • Just because an event takes place at a certain time doesn't mean the new remembrance is known by the initial event when it done again. For example, if Jesus died on the Passover is the next Passover a Passover or a remembrance of the day He died? And if you believed He was the Christ would you celebrate a Passover Seder as before His death or do something different? – Revelation Lad Jul 30 at 20:56
  • @Ruminator: So the point of this entire post was to show that Christians should use bread instead of wafers on Sundays ? – Lucian Jul 30 at 21:24
  • @Ruminator: The New Covenant includes the Jews. For rather obvious reasons, the Letter to the Hebrews focuses on them specifically. – Lucian Jul 30 at 23:02

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