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The word is used by Paul here:

NIV 1 Corinthians 11:

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

The word I'm concerned about is in verse 29, which I've highlighted:

SBLGNT 1 Corinthians 11:29 ὁ γὰρ ἐσθίων καὶ [u]πίνων κρίμα ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει μὴ διακρίνων τὸ [v]σῶμα.

The word has a wide semantic domain:

**διακρίνω** fut. διακρινῶ; 1 aor. διέκρινα LXX; impf. mid. διεκρινόμην. Pass.: fut. διακριθήσομαι LXX; 1 aor. διεκρίθην (s. κρίνω, διάκρισις; Hom.+).
① to differentiate by separating, separate, arrange (Jos., Ant. 11, 56; Ath. 13, 2; 22, 1; Mel. P. 82, 611) of created things πάντα κατὰ τάξιν δ. effect an orderly arrangement for everything Dg 8:7. ἑαυτὸν δ. separate oneself IEph 5:3 (but the ominous tone of the context favors 3b below).
② to conclude that there is a difference, make a distinction, differentiate (PGM 5, 103f σὺ διέκρινας τὸ δίκαιον καὶ τὸ ἄδικον; 4 Macc 1:14; Jos., Bell. 1, 27; Just., D. 20, 3; Ath. 15, 1) μεταξὺ ἡμῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν betw. us and them Ac 15:9. τίς σε διακρίνει; who concedes you any superiority? 1 Cor 4:7 (Appian, Bell. Civ. 5, 54 §228 δ. τινά=concede superiority to someone, beside ἐπιλέγεσθαί τινα=select someone; cp. Philo, Op. M. 137 διακρίνας ἐξ ἁπάσης τὸ βέλτιστον). μηθὲν διακρίνων τίνι δῷ without distinguishing to whom he should give Hm 2:6; cp. Ac 11:12.—Pass. διακρίνεσθαί τινος be differentiated fr. someone Dg 5:1.
③ to evaluate by paying careful attention to, evaluate, judge
ⓐ judge correctly (Job 12:11; 23:10) the appearance of the sky Mt 16:3; evaluate oneself 1 Cor 11:31; recognize τὸ σῶμα vs. 29.
ⓑ pass judgment on w. acc. ἑαυτόν on oneself IEph 5:3 (mng. 1 is also prob.); προφήτην D 11:7; abs. 1 Cor 14:29.
④ to render a legal decision, judge, decide, legal t.t. (X., Hell. 5, 2, 10; Appian, Bell. Civ. 5, 76 §324 δίκαι διεκρίνοντο; SIG 545, 18; OGI 43, 4 and11; pap; EpArist 110; Just. A II, 7, 2) ἀνὰ μέσον τινός decide betw. pers. (as Ezk 34:17, 20) 1 Cor 6:5; s. EvDobschütz, StKr 91, 1918, 410–21 and ἀνά 1b, μέσος 1b.
⑤ to be at variance w. someone, mid., w. pass. aor. (B-D-F. §78)
ⓐ because of differing judgments dispute τινί w. someone (Polyb. 2, 22, 11) Jd 9.
ⓑ by maintaining a firm opposing position or adverse judgment take issue πρός τινα w.  someone (Hdt. 9, 58, 2; Ezk 20:35f; Jo 4:2) Ac 11:2 (=criticize).
⑥ to be uncertain, be at odds w. oneself, doubt, waver (this mng. appears first in NT; with no dependence on the NT, e.g., Cyril of Scyth. p. 52, 17; 80, 10; 174, 7) Mt 21:21; Mk 11:23; Ro 14:23; Jd 22. ἐν ἑαυτῷ in one’s own mind Lk 11:38 D; Js 2:4; GJs 11:2. W. εἰς Ro 4:20 μηδὲν διακρινόμενος without any doubting Js 1:6; hesitate Ac 10:20.—DELG s.v. κρίνω. M-M. TW.


Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 231). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

In which sense is Paul using the word here?

The NIV renders this as "discerning" but that isn't provided by BDAG as a common usage of the word and to my mind communicates nothing. Is there a better rendering?

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The KJV gives 'judge' for κρινο krino 87 times out of the 113 occurrences of the word in the NT, and renders it 'determine' seven times.

Of the seven times that διακρινο diakrino occurs actively (it is there 12 times passively) the KJV again uses 'judge' three times and 'discern' (as here) twice.

On these occasions, therefore, the KJV gives us nothing for the dia prefix, sadly.

However, on the other two occasions of διακρινο diakrino in active use they give us 'make a difference' and 'put a difference' (Acts 15:9), which I think is more helpful.

And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

EGNT (Englishman's Greek New Testament) and YLT (Young's Literal) and the Douay-Rheims (from Jerome's Vulgate) all give 'discerning' in this place as well.

But JND (J N Darby) has, interestingly, 'distinguishing'.

I think the 'put a difference' translation of Acts 15:9 and the 'distinguishing' of JND give us a pointer to what the full verb with the added prefix indicates.

It seems to me to be that διακρινο diakrino is a thorough judgement, or a complete discernment, of things that are different. Thus there is a distinguishing or the perceiving of a difference in the understanding.

The casual participant of the solemn memorial does not sufficiently perceive the difference between the superficial performance of a common ritual and the vastly more significant aspect of partaking of the elements in communion with those who constitute the body of Christ, I would say, myself.

Their faculty of discernment was not sufficiently exercised, I would suggest, is the meaning of the prefixed word.

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The context of this verse, linguistically, is very revealing. There is a profusion of words from the cognate root, "krino"; namely, "dokimazeto" (examine v28), "krima" (judgement v29), "diakrinon" (discerning v29), "diekinomen" (if were judging v31), "ekrinometha" (be judged v31), "krinomenoi" (being judged, v32), "katakrithomen" (would be condemned v32).

All such words in Greek have the idea of making a division or separating. "kata" and "dia" prefixes strengthen the word. Thus, Paul is emphasising the importance of making careful decisions by making careful judgements.

BDAG (I believe correctly) allocates the meaning of "diakrinon" as "recognise", that is, "evaluate by paying careful attention to". All this examination and judgement language is the opposite of what the Lord's supper is usually designed to celebrate, namely, the sacrifice of Jesus and the forgiveness this brings. Hence the celebration!

But that is the point. The celebration is useless unless we recognise ("diakrinon") its significance. This must be done my examining ourselves but not in a judgemental fashion precisely because it is a celebration of forgiveness.

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Paul's immediate concern is that the Corinthians have failed to treat the bread and the wine as sacred, even fighting over it. So on the one hand it could be BDAG usage #2:

② to conclude that there is a difference, make a distinction, differentiate (PGM 5, 103f σὺ διέκρινας τὸ δίκαιον καὶ τὸ ἄδικον; 4 Macc 1:14; Jos., Bell. 1, 27; Just., D. 20, 3; Ath. 15, 1) μεταξὺ ἡμῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν betw. us and them Ac 15:9. τίς σε διακρίνει; who concedes you any superiority? 1 Cor 4:7 (Appian, Bell. Civ. 5, 54 §228 δ. τινά=concede superiority to someone, beside ἐπιλέγεσθαί τινα=select someone; cp. Philo, Op. M. 137 διακρίνας ἐξ ἁπάσης τὸ βέλτιστον). μηθὲν διακρίνων τίνι δῷ without distinguishing to whom he should give Hm 2:6; cp. Ac 11:12.—Pass. διακρίνεσθαί τινος be differentiated fr. someone Dg 5:1.

Or, since he wants them to treat them differently, #1:

① to differentiate by separating, separate, arrange (Jos., Ant. 11, 56; Ath. 13, 2; 22, 1; Mel. P. 82, 611) of created things πάντα κατὰ τάξιν δ. effect an orderly arrangement for everything Dg 8:7. ἑαυτὸν δ. separate oneself IEph 5:3 (but the ominous tone of the context favors 3b below).

Or somewhere in between, or both.

If he wants them, per usage #1, "to differentiate by separating, separate, arrange" then he may be saying to separate out the eating of the bread and wine from the meal and regular food.

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