Thursday, August 23, 2012

What "Poor" Means in the New Testament, The Lord's Supper & House Churches "Together" in One City

Drawing by Judith Clingan
Eugene LaVerdiere writes:

"Putting proceeds ‘at the feet of the apostles’ (Acts 4:37; cf. Acts 11:30) is an idiomatic expression like sitting, being, or falling at the feet of someone. Sitting at someone's feet, means being a disciple. Falling at someone's feet is a gesture to submission to authority. Putting things at someone's feet, means placing them at someone's disposition. In all this, the community abided by the teaching of Jesus whose concern for the poor and needy marked His life from the beginning” (all bold emphasis mine, sp).

"In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus announced that he was anointed to bring good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Asked by the messengers of John the Baptist whether He was the one to come, Jesus answered..."the poor have the gospel preached to them (7:22). At the home of a leading Pharisee, Jesus challenged His host to invite the poor... (14:13). That is when one of the fellow guests exclaimed, 'Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God!' In reply, Jesus told the parable of the great feast where the poor, crippled, lame, and blind were invited. Later there would be the parable of the rich man "who dined sumptuously each day" while a poor man named Lazarus would have gladly eaten the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. In Jesus' teaching, sharing with the poor is closely related to sharing a meal together."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Toward Unity By Sharing Salt at the Lord's Table and Away From Conformity To a Restricted 'Supper'

The New Jerusalem Bible translates Acts 1:3-4 as:

"While at table with them (sunalidzo), he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised…"

The NIV 2011 has "On one occasion, while he was eating with them..."

Eugene LaVerdiere translates Acts 1:3-4 as:

"He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while He was sharing salt with them..."

And, BAGD, the currently accepted standard for first century Greek usages, gives these for sunalidzo:

1) eat (salt) together, share a meal with; or
2) to bring together, assemble, come together, or 3) “spend the night with,” “stay with.”

Vincent Word Studies in the New Testament says of Acts 1:3-4:

"Being assembled together (συναλιζόμενος) From σύν, together, and ἁλής, 'thronged or crowded.' Both the A. V. [KJV] and Rev. give eating together in margin, following the derivation from σύν, together, and ἅλς, salt: eating salt together, and hence generally of association at table."

These translations and comments can help us better understand first century culture and Paul's concern for unity at the Lord's Supper/Table in 1 Cor. 11:17-34; cf. 10:21, especially when the word Paul uses in 1 Cor. 11:20, deipnon, refers to the evening meal.

Robert Banks writes:
"The word deipnon (1 Cor. 11:20), meaning "dinner," tells us that it was not a token meal (as it has become since) or part of a meal (as it is sometimes envisaged), but an entire, ordinary meal. The term indicates that this is the main (normally evening) meal, the one to which guests were invited. The breaking and distribution of the bread was the normal way of commencing such a meal, just as the taking of a cup was the usual way to bring it to a conclusion, prayers of blessing accompanied both."

LaVerdiere continues:

"For friends, meals were a source of deeper unity, as meal after meal bonded them closer and closer. To see how eating salt was related to friendship, we turn to two philosophers, one Greek and one Roman--Aristotle (384-322 BC), the teacher of Alexander the Great, and Cicero (106-43 BC), famous as the dean of Roman orators."

"Aristotle wrote of the various kinds of friendship. Describing the highest form as that between good people, who resemble each other in virtue: 'Such friendships are of course rare, because such men are few. Moreover they require time and intimacy: as the saying goes: You cannot get to know a man until you have consumed the appropriate amount of salt in his company."

"In other words, people have to share many a meal together before they really get to know one another and become fast friends. Friendship has to mature, and the maturing takes place at the meals together they share with one another. Since salt is a necessary ingredient at every meal, the depth of a friendship can be measured by the amount of salt they take in one another's company."

"Aristotle became a bit more explicit, stating that it takes a long time for a friendship to develop, hence the proverbial reference to a 'bushel of salt.' To take and eat salt together is to have a meal together. To have eaten a bushel of salt together is to have eaten many meals together, to have enjoyed a long history of meals together. Those who have eaten a bushel of salt together are therefore old and very close friends."

"Cicero, in his philosophical treatise "On Friendship" (De Amicitia), wrote eloquently about the value of old friends. "As in the case of wines that improve with age, the oldest friendships ought to be the most delightful; moreover, the well known adage is true: 'Men must eat a peck of salt together before the claims of friendship are fulfilled."

"Both Aristotle and Cicero provide a foundation in ordinary human experience for what Jesus did, sharing salt with the apostles. Sharing salt with them, Jesus was building up the bond of friendship between the apostles and Him and among the apostles themselves. Since salt was an extremely important element in a meal, indeed, a life-giving element, taking salt with the apostles meant sharing His life with them. Taking salt with the apostles over a period of 40 days meant Jesus was deepening and strengthening the bond of unity."


"The evening meal was in progress... I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 13:2... 15:15).

It is paramount not to read the following passage with the 'public worship building vs. at home secular meal' hermeneutic:
"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 Cor. 11:33-34).
The Lord's Supper was a meal in a home consisting of "breaking bread" at the beginning and "taking the cup" after supper even in 1 Cor. 11:25:

"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” (1 Cor. 11:23-25).

This is why Romans 14-16 talks about (Jews & Greeks) accepting one another concerning food and other scruples.

Romans 14:1ff is not about "secular matters outside of worship" or "matters of opinion that don't pertain to 'worship,'" They are passages designed to unite Jews and Gentiles in worship/life, or living together as a community in the kingdom of God:

Paul writes:
"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand."
"One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living."
"You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
It is written:
"'As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
  every tongue will acknowledge God.'"
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God."
"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval."
"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall."
"So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Romans 14:1-23).
We really need to keep reading chapters 15 and 16 to see that Paul is uniting Jews and Gentiles in Romans 14-16--not separating worship from the 'rest of life.' The false dichotomy of either "all of life is worship" or "all of life is not worship" does not help increase our understanding of the NT or first century culture. Accepting a false dichotomy prevents us from seeing numerous other possibilities, especially the correct ones if we are in error.

From food/special days preferences in Romans chps. 14-16, to the collections in 1 Cor. 16:1-4, to the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor. 11:17-34, to circumcision not being a condition of salvation in Acts 15:4-29, to just about everything Peter and Paul say in their letters, the broader context of the NT is uniting Jews and Gentiles into one community.

These "commands to obey" are in the NT/first century context of an apostolic, conscientious attempt to unite people of different cultures/races--not to rule/control from the top down by demanding submission to timeless principles/truths through a man-made, dualistic hermeneutic of 'matters of faith' and 'matters of opinion' that separates 'worship' from the 'rest of life.'

Authority in the NT is not about satisfying a few at the top who demand that you ‘submit’ for your protection. This modern, government-style fear tactic does not encourage Biblical faith in God or Christian maturity/growth--it hinders it.

Dining in the Kingdom of God--eating at the Lord's Table--serves the purpose of uniting Christians. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20). This is what Paul's concern was for the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:33).

Do you know Christians who "forbid you or others from eating certain foods?"
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer."

"If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed..."(1 Tim. 4:1-5).

Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS, "The Breaking of the Bread," in The Development of the Eucharist According to Acts, 1998, pp. 50-51.

Robert Banks, Paul's Idea of Community, Revised Edition.