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NIV 1 Corinthians 11:20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat,

11:20 Συνερχομένων οὖν ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ οὐκ ἔστιν κυριακὸν δεῖπνον φαγεῖν

It sounds like ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ indicates over what the Corinthians were gathering but it isn't clear to me to what he is referring. The NIV leaves it untranslated (see above).

So to what does it refer? The KJV has "in one place":

KJV 1 Corinthians 11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.

What is Paul saying? Is he saying that coming together in one place is not appropriate for the "Lord's Supper"?

  • 10 other NT results: lemma: ἐπί lemma: ὁ lemma: αὐτός Mt 22:34; Lk 17:35; Ac 1:15; Ac 2:1; Ac 2:44; Ac 2:47; Ac 4:26; 1Co 7:5; 1Co 11:20; 1Co 14:23 – fumanchu Oct 30 '18 at 18:58
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The participle ("συνερχομένων") provides the answer you're looking for. As a present active, it renders a simultaneous action with the main verb ("is"):

[While] gathering together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper.

The Greek does not bear out that the gathering together itself is "not the Lord's Supper", but that their actions performed during that gathering (infinitive: "to eat") is what merits the rebuttal.

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to what does “ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ” refer?

It just means to-get-her = together. Not exactly, but similar.

Συνερχομένων = gather
οὖν = therefore
ὑμῶν = you
ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ = together; on/in the same (place)

Is he saying that coming together in one place is not appropriate for the "Lord's Supper"?

Gathering together isn't the problem. The Corinthians aren't eating the Lord's supper because of their behavior, which Paul criticizes in 11:17-18,21.

One of those behaviors is the formation of subgroups within the church (11:18, "there are divisions among you"), which he also criticizes in Gal 2:11. Paul wants them to not only gather together to eat in one place, but to also interact with each other (11:33, "you should all eat together").

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I think that what Paul is actually saying in 1 Corinthians 11:20 is that "The reason you assemble is not to eat the Lord's dinner but rather to ingest the sacred symbols he showed me".

The reason I say that is that this is the only place where the term "Lord's supper" is used in scripture so there is no reason to think it a name for something. He's saying "the food is not the point".

Adam Denoon's translation and analysis is in line with my own observation, of the infinitive, which I welcome because I have no credentials or expertise. This is from his answer elsewhere on this question:

The participle ("συνερχομένων") provides the answer you're looking for. As a present active, it renders a simultaneous action with the main verb ("is"):

[While] gathering together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper.

The Greek does not bear out that the gathering together itself is "not the Lord's Supper", but that their actions performed during that gathering (infinitive: "to eat") is what merits the rebuttal.

So just reading his translation, which is quite literal (though I would change "while" to "when"), Paul is saying that they are not gathered to eat the Lord's dinner. Apparently to the Corinthians they were just there to fill their bellies:

KJV John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

Paul says that it would be better not to come together:

KJV 1 Corinthians 11:17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.

He complains about the respect of persons in their assemblies:

KJV 1 Corinthians 11:19 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

That verse 19 is not about Paul praising the Corinthians for good order. This is plain because he starts out the verse with "for first of all,..." and when you have a "for" you need to find out what it is there for. In this case it points back to the verse saying "it would be better if you did not assemble".

The logistics are a nightmare:

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

He says that he absolutely does not approve of their novel idea of eating in the assembly and cites more problems:

KJV 1 Corinthians 11:22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

The reference to "praise you not" harps back to verse 1 where Paul praises the Corinthians for keeping the customs that HE HAS PASSED ON TO THEM. But in the next two section he deals with 2 customs that deviated from what he taught:

  • head coverings
  • coming together in the assembly to eat

For head coverings he tells them to tell anyone who pushes this custom that "we don't have such a custom" or "we have no such custom".

For coming together to eat in the assembly he says "bad idea" "eat at home" but at the end he says "if you decide to come together to eat, then wait for each other".

Update

Verse 22 leads me to believe that people bringing their own suppers was at least part of the problem because some had plenty and some had none.

  • No where in these verses does Paul tell them to not gather together. Why are you trying to make it seem as if he did? – xiota Oct 31 '18 at 23:44
  • I'm saying he definitely did not praise them for it. He praised them for the cases where they did obey him but not in this. – Ruminator Oct 31 '18 at 23:46
  • 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. – Ruminator Oct 31 '18 at 23:49
  • I also don't see what any of this has to do with ἐπὶ-τὸ-αὐτὸ. – xiota Oct 31 '18 at 23:52
  • Paul talks about praising them in verse 1. – Ruminator Oct 31 '18 at 23:53
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Coming together with divisions

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. (1 Corinthians 11:17)

Paul is criticising the sense of division and inequality that occurs whenever the Corinthians come together - doing nothing to promote harmony and unity among them. He briefly mentions that 'differences of opinion' (αἵρεσις - hairesis, Strong's 139) are to be expected (not everyone has God's approval), but this is not the same as 'divisions' (σχίσματα - schismata, Strong's 4978), which suggests a physical tear or rift. He then uses the Lord's supper as an example to illustrate this.

What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11:20 is that the act of coming together 'in the one place' to eat does not make it the Lord's supper - there is more to it than that. He follows this statement by describing individual selfishness, inequality and over-indulgence that comes from a gathering which focuses only on eating and drinking in the one place:

when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? (1 Corinthians 11: 20-22)

The physical activity of eating and drinking, tending to one's bodily needs, can be done at home - the Lord's supper is more of a commemorative occasion than a meal. To point this out, Paul then describes the Lord's supper, as the original event was described to him, focusing on Jesus' call for remembrance.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26 - my emphasis)

The point of the Lord's supper, then, is not to eat food or drink wine, but to come together, remember and symbolically share in the body and blood of Christ, as Jesus instructed - together.

The Lord's supper is not a place for divisions. There will be 'differences' in the way each individual approaches the gathering, but these are not for the group to discern or judge amongst each other, creating divisions, but for each to examine within themselves before coming to the Lord's supper, and take steps to ensure they approach this commemorative occasion in the appropriate manner.

So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. (1 Corinthians 11: 33-34)

Conclusion

Paul is not instructing against coming together for the Lord's supper - he is emphasising the distinction between simply gathering in one place to eat and drink (complete with divisions), and coming together (despite differences of opinion) to commemorate when Jesus symbolically shared his body and blood through the bread and wine and then instructed his disciples to share remembrance of him in the same manner.

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1 Cor 11:18 πρῶτον μὲν γὰρ συνερχομένων ὑμῶν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ 1 Cor 11:20 Συνερχομένων οὖν ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ οὐκ ἔστιν κυριακὸν δεῖπνον φαγεῖν

The pericope, in my opinion, should be expanded to include at least v. 18 as the participle is used in similar construct with 'first' and 'assembly', the nature of assembling which is characterized or described by Paul as to what he hears and believes (placing those characteristics in the accusative). For me, Paul employs ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ in reference to what πρῶτον begins and what he hears and believes about what characterizes their assembling, so that ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ could be translated as "in this manner" or "in this way"...i.e. when you assemble together in this way (divisions/divisiveness, eating with no regard for the poor), it is not for the purpose of the Lord's supper to eat. I find "in one place" to be a 'reach', but am willing to listen/read any explanation.

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