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“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.” (Luk 22:17, ESV)

Matthew and Mark refer to the bread, then the cup. In both cases it says Jesus takes the cup, gives thanks, and gives it to them. Luke mentions the cup, then the bread, then returns to the cup.

“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luk 22:20, ESV)

I have a few questions.

First question.

is the cup of verse 17 the sacramental cup, or not? I find the parallel pattern of Jesus taking, blessing, and giving to indicate it's the same cup.

Barne's notes on the bible argues it is a different cup:

And he took the cup and gave thanks - This was not the "sacramental" cup, for that was taken "after" supper, Luke 22:20. This was one of the cups which were usually taken during the celebration of the Passover, and pertained to that observance. "After" he had kept this in the usual manner, he instituted the supper which bears his name, using the bread and wine which had been prepared for the Passover, and thus ingrafted the Lord's Supper on the Passover, or superseded the Passover by another ordinance, which was intended to be perpetual.

Second question.

If it is the same cup, what is mechanically going on? The picture I'm getting is that the wine was distributed, then the bread was taken and eaten, then the wine was consumed. Only Luke necessarily indicates that the wine was consumed after the bread, Matthew and Mark seem time indifferent, saying "and he took a cup". I'm assuming the accounts can be harmonized, and it seems compatible with Matthew and Mark that Jesus' giving thanks for and drinking of the wine can be interrupted by the taking of the bread.

Third question.

What does "divide it among yourselves" entail? Is it even textually possible that "dividing" διαμερίζω meant sipping from a common cup? The above order requires a number of separate cups, each filled from Christ's, each disciple waiting to drink until after the bread was consumed.

This reading seems supported by the "pouring" language during the institution of the wine in Luke 22:20. Does "this cup" mean the literal, tangible cup? Is "poured"/"shed" ἐκχέω compatible with sipping from a cup?

I gather that the words are spoken prior to the disciples drinking the wine based on Matthew's account:

“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mat 26:27-28, ESV)

Fourth question.

Does the tense of "this cup that is poured out for you" (Luke) imply that the cup is empty prior to the disciples drinking wine? Or perhaps have I misidentified the cup, or misplaced the drinking relative to the statement.

Thank you in advance.

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    The word 'sacrament' derives from Latin and never occurs in the biblical Greek text.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 24, 2023 at 8:56

2 Answers 2

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First, there is no such thing in the NT called a "sacramental cup". It is never mentioned!

Second, Jesus command (in the Greek imperative mood) is rather simple, Luke 22:17 -

Take this cup and divide [it] among yourselves

The Greek is quite unambiguous - take "THIS" cup - the cup Jesus was holding to divide it among themselves. The command is the direct equivalent of what Matther records in matt 26:27 -

And having taken the cup and having given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you."

That is, all the disciples were to drink from the same cup.

Luke 22:20 - "is being poured out".

The Greek verbal participle is ἐκχυννόμενον is in the present tense and thus must be translated, "is being poured out".

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  • Should churches today also use only one cup to drink the fruit of the wine as Jesus and his disciples did? Oct 26, 2023 at 3:00
  • @TruthSeeker - some do, some do not. There is no actual instruction or command by Jesus to celebrate the communion. However, there are three command s to wash each other's feet in John 13. This perfectly illustrates the problem with the many squabbles people have had over the last two millennia about communion matters that are never mandated.
    – Dottard
    Oct 26, 2023 at 3:09
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διαμερίσατε is aorist active imperative 2nd person plural. It is a command to the disciples (εἰς ἑαυτούς).

διαμερίζω ...① to divide into separate parts, divide, separate ... ② to distribute objects to a series of pers., distribute (...) εἴς τινα share with someone Lk 22:17 ... ③ to be divided into opposing units, be divided, ... -- Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 233). University of Chicago Press.

Thus, they passed a single cup, but this has cause issues throughout church history because of abuse by alcoholics drinking the entire cup.

This is the best answer without going to opinion-based answers:

He received a cup (δεξαμενος ποτηριον [dexamenos potērion]). This cup is a diminutive of ποτηρ [potēr]. It seems that this is still one of the four cups passed during the passover meal, though which one is uncertain. It is apparently just before the formal introduction of the Lord’s Supper [communion], though he gave thanks here also (εὐχαριστησας [eucharistēsas]). It is from this verb εὐχαριστεω [eucharisteō] (see also verse 19) that our word Eucharist comes. It is a common verb for giving thanks and was used also for “saying grace” as we call it. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Luke 22:17). Broadman Press.

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