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Here are some scriptural references (quotes from ESV). The cup seems to refer often to one's portion of God's will. Any incites on the use of the term cup.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. (Matt. 26:39)

And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”  Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”  He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matt 20:21–23)

               You prepare a table before me 
  in the presence of my enemies; 
              you anoint my head with oil; 
  my cup overflows. 
               Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
  all the days of my life, 
              and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD 
  forever. 
                       (Ps 23:5–6)



        The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; 
  you hold my lot. 
                (Psalm 16:5)

        I will lift up the cup of salvation 
  and call on the name of the LORD, 
                (Psalm 116:13)

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.  For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:17–20)

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2 Answers 2

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When not used literally, "cup" ποτήριον is a figure/metaphor of one's destiny whether good or bad. Indeed, BDAG states this (so does Thayer) when it says:

in the OT, ποτήριον is an expression for destiny in both a good and bad senses, for death in general ... On the concept of drinking a cup of suffering cp. Isa 51:17, 22; Lam 4:21,; Ps 10:6; 74:9 ...

in the NT we see exactly the same metaphor: "shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" John 18:11; see also Matt 20:22, 26:39, 42, Mark 10:38, 14:36, Luke 22:42, etc.

Thus, Jesus, at the last supper, appears to combine two common Jewish metaphors - one from the Passover, and the other from Hebrew poetry about destiny, into a new powerful Christian symbol of the New covenant:

  • Luke 22:20 - and the cup likewise, after having supped, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is being poured out for you.
  • 1 Cor 11:25 - Likewise also the cup after having supped, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you might drink it, in remembrance of Me."

Thus, "the cup" of the last supper:

  • provides a link to its origins in the Passover
  • uses a well-known metaphor of Jesus voluntarily deciding to suffer the destiny of death and suffering
  • becomes a reminder to future participants of the spilled blood of Jesus
  • becomes a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus and how it is to affect the hearts of Jesus followers as per Heb 8:10, 10:16, Jer 31:31
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  • +1 I knew someone would have some insight on this.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Mar 31 at 22:20
  • I focused too much on the Old Testament passages and didn't look enough at the Greek.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 1 at 0:05
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I would add the following connections to those mentioned in the OP and @Dottard's answer. Another aspect to this question has to do with the idea of the Messianic feast. In the Gospels, Jesus hints at this in the parable of the Wedding Feast, where those invited do not respond.

The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. 4 A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’... 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come.

Jesus' willingness to drink of the cup of suffering in Gethsemane can be seen as the polar opposite of what the King hopes for in the parable. The King invites his people to the wedding of his son, and now the Son must drink the cup of death instead of marriage and family.

One can read a foreshadowing of Jesus' course in the 22nd Psalm. Here, the sufferer passes through a deathly trial but eventually emerges victorious to provide a feast for believers:

He has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. 26 I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him. 27 The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the Lord will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!”

Finally, when NT as a whole concludes, the theme of the Wedding Feast is again prominent:

Revelation 19:6-9

“Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, [our] God, the almighty. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb[a] has come, his bride has made herself ready... Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 22:17

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let the hearer say, “Come.” Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.

Conclusion: the theme of eating and drinking - both in sorrow and in joy - is present throughout the OT and NT in connection with the Messiah. In the end, however, the cup is one of joy and blessing. Whereas in the parable of the Wedding Feast, those invited are not worthy, in the end, the Messiah's bride has bade herself ready, and those invited to drink from the cup of living are eternally blessed.

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  • Good addition. Psalm 23 seems to go with this.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 3 at 9:34
  • @PerryWebb... Yes, as it was mentioned already in the OP, I omitted it. Commented Apr 3 at 15:45

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