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I spend my free time (and I have a bit of it in these times) reading the letters of Paul, in Greek, in chronological order.

I am working through 1 Corinthians at the moment.

Paul's references and assumptions about our understanding of what he means can be trying at times. But this time, the language itself, the construction of the Greek, does not cause the major problem, but what he thinks we should understand.

In Verse 1 Cor 11.30 there is a simple statement: Because of this, there are many weak, sick and dying among you. (all translations here are my own, if nothing else, to see if I understand what has been written).

Paul is critical of the disrespect the Corinthians are showing for the common meal. Some bring a lot of food, wine, eat it by themselves, like at a common picnic, get drunk, and others have no food at all. Paul reminds them what the eucharist is.

27 Ὥστε ὃς ἂν ἐσθίῃ τὸν ἄρτον ἢ πίνῃ τὸ ποτήριον τοῦ κυρίου ἀναξίως, ἔνοχος ἔσται τοῦ σώματος καὶ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ κυρίου.

Therefor whoever eats the bread or drinks from the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.

28 δοκιμαζέτω δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἑαυτὸν καὶ οὕτως ἐκ τοῦ ἄρτου ἐσθιέτω καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ποτηρίου πινέτω·

Let every person look into themselves (do some self reflection) and then eat of the bread and drink from the cup.

29 ὁ γὰρ ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων κρίμα ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει μὴ διακρίνων τὸ σῶμα.

The one who eats and drinks without acknowledging the body eats and drinks a judgement upon himself.

30 διὰ τοῦτο ἐν ὑμῖν πολλοὶ ἀσθενεῖς καὶ ἄρρωστοι καὶ κοιμῶνται ἱκανοί.

Because of this there are many weak and sick among you and not a few have died (fallen asleep).

My question is: what is the reason, in Paul's mind, for the ills befalling them? What does he mean by διὰ τοῦτο?

I am working with Fitzmyer's commentary in the Anchor Yale Series. On page 447 he writes.

In the history of the exegesis of 1 Corinthians, this verse has not had many interpreters.

I do not get the impression that the well-to-do (the winers and diners) are the ones who are weak, sick and dying, but rather the "have-nots" who they are disrespecting and shaming (verse 22). So it seems odd that the have-nots should be subject to the ills in verse 30 because of the bad behaviour of the well-to-do.

I wanted to think that the affluents' poor behaviour, and in particular their neglect of the poor and needy, was the reason for suffering among the weak and sick, but verse 34 made me drop that line of thinking.

εἴ τις πεινᾷ, ἐν οἴκῳ ἐσθιέτω, ἵνα μὴ εἰς κρίμα συνέρχησθε.

If someone (who can afford it) is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you do not congregate to condemnation. (once again, my arm chair translation).

I interpret this as one of Paul's solution to the problem and narrowing down the problem to disrepect of the common meal, not lack of care for the poor (as I would personally like to see it).

The end of verse 34 is frustrating:

... τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ ὡς ἂν ἔλθω διατάξομαι.

The rest I will instruct on/arrange when I come.

It seems that any questions that might have arisen will be dealt with at a coming visit. We can guess for ages on what this was. We are never told.

5 Answers 5

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You asked … “My question is: what is the reason, in Paul's mind, for the ills befalling them?

Paul already answered that question - quite clearly -

1 COR 11:29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

The ‘ills’ befell them because they were not discerning the Lord’s body. But I suspect you really meant to ask for an * interpretation* of this? And if so, then that answer depends on whatever the theological foundation the answerer has. The following for consideration…

Communion originated from Pesach. This ‘meal’, Passover, originated in Egypt. The event described in Matthew 26:26–28, Mark 14:22–25 and Luke 22:14–23, is commonly known as the Last Supper. It was Jesus’ last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion. That ‘meal’ was a Passover meal. Jesus gave bread and wine—representing his body and blood—to his disciples.

Jesus in his body, via his death, took the judgement meant for the firstborn of the Israelites. (When departing Egypt). In the same way, Jesus on the cross, in his body, took the judgement for our ‘sin’. By simply just ‘eating’ the bread (of communion) as in 1 Corinthians 11, without ‘understanding’ what that signifies, then via eating the bread - it’s just a ‘meal’ for ‘food’, therefore because you don’t ‘discern’ the deeper significance of the bread- that it represents Jesus’s body, you yourself may end up ‘paying the price’. Instead of believing that Jesus took that judgement for you on the cross. That is what Paul meant..

1 COR 11:30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

‘Sin’ is ‘done’ in/with ‘the flesh’. And it is the ‘flesh’ that is judged for that ‘sin’. Jesus took that ‘judgement’ meant for us - in his body.

1 PETER 2:24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, [snip].

… communion - it’s not just ‘a meal’.

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  • Yes, there is that explanation. But it does not appear that the affluent, those showing disrespect, were the weak, sick and dying, but others. So others are bing punished for their poor behaviour? Possible, but it seems rather harsh. Jan 20 at 6:49
  • @DanielRidings 1 Corinthians 11:30 is not saying that those who don’t discern the ‘meaning’ of the bread in communion will ‘get weak or die’ - it is saying that the reason some are ‘weak and sleep’ is because they [the sick and weak] don’t‘ discern the body correctly! And the evidence that they weren’t discerning correctly is via how they partook!
    – Dave
    Jan 20 at 19:14
  • where do you get that the sick and week don't discern the body correctly? They are the ones the affluent are shaming (11:22), since they didn't even have anything. They did not even have food to eat. No, it is the affluent who are misbehaving bringing misfortune upon the weak. I cannot see that the text says anything else. Jan 21 at 5:30
  • @DanielRidings [quote] “for this reason” - what reason? For ‘not discerning the body’. …. Never mind, as is often the case with interpretation, two can look at the same verse, yet ‘see’ two completely different things. Cheers!
    – Dave
    Jan 21 at 18:24
  • Cheers! We are agreed for the reason, "not discerning the body" (and misbehaving at the supper), but we see different subjects. I see the affluent, not those who have nothing. So the affluent's poor behavior is taken out on the weak and sick. Seems odd. Jan 21 at 18:28
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There were those who despised others who in their assembly.

At that time remember the kingdom powers were still present among them that led to the judgment of those who had offended. Paul warns them to judge themselves to see if they were despising those in their assembly who had nothing.

Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? 1:cor. 11:22

Here is the word despise from Strong's Concordance

Definition: to think little of Usage: I despise, scorn, and show it by active insult, disregard.

"regulating behavior from inner mind-set") – properly, view down, i.e. with a negative (hostile) outlook; to despise, thinking down on (thinking little of); esteem lightly, seeing as insignificant or detestable; to treat with contempt or disregard to devalue; to depreciate (scorn); pay no regard to (because something seems of no account); " 'despise, scorn,' and show it by active insult" (Souter). [2706 /kataphronéō (literally, "think down") refers to holding someone in contempt, deeming them unworthy and hence despised (scorned).]

Paul is asking those to judge them selves to see if this was an attitude that they were harboring inside their hearts towards those whom Christ died for. Some were looking at others from an outside appearance and judging others with distain. It looks like their judgment came back on themselves. This was a hard discipline for these at this time but they were to correct their attitudes by the discipline of the Lord.

and being judged by the LORD, we are disciplined, that we may not be condemned with the world; 1 cor. 11:32

The discipline of the Lord is always salutary even though it seems most severe.

So Paul just basically tells everyone to eat at home, when you come together just wait for one another so they would not come under judgment.

So then, my brothers, coming together to eat, wait for one another; and if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, that you may not come together to judgment; 1 cor. 11:34

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  • But the conclusion then, is that the weak and sick are being punished for the poor behaviour of the affluent, the ones showing now respect? Jan 20 at 6:51
  • @DanielRidings - the poor and NOT being punished - they are suffering the consequences of others' sin. BIG difference. We all suffer the consequences of a sinful world in various ways.
    – Dottard
    Jan 20 at 9:40
  • @Dottard I suppose that is the way we need to see this. The innocent are suffering because of their extravagant brothers. It feels a bit odd. Jan 20 at 10:14
  • @DanielRidings - Jesus actually spoke about they way the rich exploited the poor such as Luke 12:21, 21:1, Mark 10:25, James 2:6, 5:1, Luke 6:24, etc.
    – Dottard
    Jan 20 at 10:19
  • @Dottard I would like to keep to the text. Upon re-reading it, if we follow the line of thinking, Paul says there are weak, sick and dying because of the poor observance of the eurcharist by others. For me, they are being punished because of others's behavior. Jan 20 at 10:34
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The reason for the sickness and death was the unworthy reception of the Eucharist, as he explicitly explains:

29-30 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.

He is talking about the Eucharistic sacrament, and not about a mere meal, hence his upbraiding them with, "it is not now the Lord's Supper" (a nickname of St. Paul's for the Eucharist — both terms derived directly from the narrative of the Last Supper, when Christ ate His 'last supper' and at which he, 'gave thanks' — eucharistia thanksgiving) despite identifying what they are profaning as the Eucharist:

23-26 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. 24 And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. 25 In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. 26 For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.

He explains how to make oneself worthy: "but let a man prove himself first, and so eat of the bread, and drink of the cup." This examination of one's consience determines worthiness: 'am I worthy, or do I need to wait this out until I'm reconciled with God?' For there are worthy participations, and unworthy ones.

This corresponds to the first century Didache (cap. 14), which interprets this as the confession of sins:

But every Lord's day [first day of the week] gather yourselves together, and break bread [name for Euch.], and give thanksgiving [name for Euch.] 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, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

(Interpreting the Eucharist as the fulfillment of the sacrifice spoken of in Malachi 1 is something unanimous among the early Christians. It's also confirmed by St. Paul when he calls that on which the bread is broke the "table" of the Lord and contrasts it with the "table" of demons, the same being an altar, and this phrase "table of the Lord" only being used in Malach 1 of the altar of sacrifice.)

Regardless, the passage is clearly about consulting one's conscience to see whether one is worthy or not. One can deduce from basic reason that this involves reconciliation and reconcilability, since it is a sacrament in and among Christians, not among those who may or may not be Christian (sacraments were highly guarded from those outside in the early church, to such an extent that until you were baptized, you couldn't even stay for the Eucahristic service beyond the very first intial prayers), and hence the lifting of sin from the conscience, through whatever means was normative: the early church interpreting this as confession of sins.

The sickness and death that followed the profanation of the sacrament flowed as a punishment from the sacrelige of treating the Eucharist as though it were mere bread and wine, whereas such is a failure to "recognize the body" in the sacrament — the sacrament which Christ instituting said was "My body" and "my blood."

Hence St. Paul warns anyone who wants earthly food and drink to satisfy himself at home, instead of profaning a sacrament by treating it as a buffet.

1 Corthians 11:34 If any man be hungry, let him eat at home; that you come not together unto judgment. ...

The ones who suffer are those who "eat and drink unworthily," not those who please God. 'Whoever does x will suffer punishment, hence many among you have suffered punishment' is quite a direct and explicit chain of thought, in that it limits the punishment by the "therefore" itself.

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Luke 22:14

'he reclined at table and the apostles with him'.

One group; shared experience; close relationships.

Luke 22:22

'the Son of Man goes as it has been determined".

Truth taught; One body of understanding.

Luke 22:19

'This is my body'.

One body represented and participated in.

Luke 22:19

'Do this in remembrance of me'.

me/One body; shared activity and thoughts for body of church in the future.

1 Peter 2:24

'He himself bore our sins in his body'.

One body for our sins.

1 Corinthians 12:12

'the body is one and has many parts'.

Is the church at one? How do the many parts relate? Do they represent His Oneness?

'acknowledging the body'. or, 'without discerning the body' ESV comes in 1 Cor 11:29 just before ' because of this'. "acknowledging" is maintaining everything that the body stands for.

If there is any in-fighting, rivalries, jealousies between groups or individuals when bread is being eaten in memory of One body- then-because of this:

Paul is thinking: The body is sick, spiritually, and needs healing.

The spiritual sickness may manifest itself as an outward sign through physical sickness.

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  • I'd kind of like to keep to Paul here. I am not so convinced that 1 Cor 12:12 has a lot to do with this, but I'll re-study it. This "because of this" is referring back to what he has just written. I am a little afraid the answer could have been found in 11:34. Jan 19 at 18:26
  • No, no. I always read your input and will be coming back to it when I mull over this a bit more. Thanks! Jan 20 at 6:53
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"If someone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you do not congregate to condemnation."

Instead of symbolically eating just a tiny piece of bread and drinking a tiny amount of wine (symbols of the crucifixion of the flesh) when coming together they probably brought a lot of food and wine, which they shared with each other and had a feast. If so some, if not most, of them probably had a bit too much of God's gifts in cheerful company.

“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks from the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord”.

“Body” here cannot refer to the church, because the “blood” part wouldn’t then make sense. “Body” may instead refer to Christ’s body on the cross.

“Let every person look into themselves and then eat of the bread and drink from the cup”

To “look into themselves” has to mean to apply the cross in their own lives. Which is the crucifixion of their flesh.

“The one who eats and drinks without acknowledging the body eats and drinks a judgement upon himself”.

The judgement for not crucifying one's flesh is destruction

“Because of this there are many weak and sick among you and not a few have died”.

Consequently, to overindulge in wine and food is to not crucifying one's flesh, and leads to sickness and early death. That must have been exactly what many of the first Christians were doing. They had not yet understood the full meaning of the crucifixion.

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  • But I don't get the impression that it was the over-indulgers, actually, the disrespectful ones, who were becoming weak, sick and dying. Just that their disrespect for the service was responsible for members being weak, sick and dying, not necessarily they themselves. They can solve the problem by eating at home (and indulge all they want, I assume) if they are hungry, verse 34. Jan 26 at 12:54

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