Lord's Supper, The
LORD'S SUPPER, THE
An early name (κυριακòν δε[symbol omitted]πνον) for the celebration of the Eucharist, found in the New Testament only in 1 Cor 11.20 and perhaps original with St. Paul. The adjective κυριακός (belonging to the Lord, the Lord's) that is employed here in place of the more usual noun in the genitive κυρίου (of the Lord; see also Rv 1.10), is borrowed from Hellenistic governmental and legal language with the meaning "pertaining to the Lord (Emperor); imperial." In Paul's use, the supper "pertains to the Lord" primarily and fundamentally as a liturgical repetition of the last supper of the historical Jesus, whom the Christians now recognized as risen Lord ("the Lord Jesus": 1 Cor 11.23). The Jewish passover meal made ritually
present the past redeeming action of God, and at the same time it was an appeal for the decisive coming of the eschatological kingdom. According to Paul (1 Cor 11.23–26), at the Last Supper Jesus sealed a new covenant in His own sacrificial body and blood; the supper's liturgical reproduction, explained by the "do this in remembrance of me," is a proclamation of the death of the Lord, to be repeated until His final coming.
To exploit the riches of this complex mystery, Paul used Old Testament and even pagan parallels and analogies. In spite of verbal similarities, his pagan converts would not have failed to see the utter opposition between the Christian "table of the Lord," "cup of the Lord" (1 Cor 10.21), and such Hellenistic cult terms as "to sup at the table of the Lord Serapis," "cup of the Good Genius" (see G. A. Deissmann, 299); to partake of the latter was to eat and drink at the "table of demons" (1 Cor 10.20–21; see Dt 32.17). A meal was a favorite Biblical image for eschatological realities; see, e.g., Is 65.13; Mt8.11–12; 22.1–14; 25.10; Lk 14.15–24; Rv 3.20; 19.9. As the "table of the Lord," the Eucharist is sacrificial food (Mal 1.7, 12; for table, supper in the sense of food, see Dn 1.8, 13, 15). The model for the eschatological "great supper of God" in Rv 19.17 has at the same time a cultic character (cf. Ez 39.17–20, where slaughter has the meaning of sacrificial meal).
Paul underlined the sacrificial nature of the supper; that he was no innovator, however, is shown by the traditional character of the report (1 Cor 11.23), its lapidary liturgical tone, and its conformity with other New Testament accounts where sacrificial and eschatological elements are present also (see, e.g., Mk 14.22–25). That his doctrine was not fundamentally different from that of the primitive Jerusalem community, with its joyous "breaking of bread" (Acts 2.42, 46) is shown by the use of this term in 1 Cor 10.16 and in description of the religious assembly of the Pauline community at Troas (Acts 20.7–11). Thus, at the commemorative and eschatological Lord's Supper, the Eucharistic presence of the Lord who has died and risen is an anticipation of His final presence (parousia) and already a partial answer to the earnest early Christian prayer "maranatha, come Lord!" (1 Cor 16.22; see also Rv 22.20).
See Also: agape.
Bibliography: g. a. deissmann, Licht vom Osten (4th ed. Tübingen 1923) 298–99, 304–06. h. schÜrmann, "Herrenmahl," Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 5:271. p. neuenzeit, Das Herrenmahl: Studien zur paulinischen Eucharistieauffassung (Munich 1960).