C – The Politics of the Communal Meal in Hellenistic Greece, 1 Cor. 11: 28-34

[28] δοκιμαζέτω δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἑαυτόν, καὶ οὕτως ἐκ τοῦ ἄρτου ἐσθιέτω καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ποτηρίου πινέτω: [29] ὁ γὰρ ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων κρίμα ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει μὴ διακρίνων τὸ σῶμα. [30] διὰ τοῦτο ἐν ὑμῖν πολλοὶ ἀσθενεῖς καὶ ἄρρωστοι καὶ κοιμῶνται ἱκανοί. [31] εἰ δὲ ἑαυτοὺς διεκρίνομεν, οὐκ ἂν κρινόμενοιἐκρινόμεθα: [32]  δὲ ὑπὸ τοῦ κυρίου παιδευόμεθα, ἵνα μὴ σὺν τῷ κόσμῳ κατακριθῶμεν. [33] ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, συνερχόμενοι εἰς τὸ φαγεῖν ἀλλήλους ἐκδέχεσθε. [34] εἴ τις πεινᾷ, ἐν οἴκῳ ἐσθιέτω, ἵνα μὴ εἰς κρίμα συνέρχησθε. Τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ ὡς ἂν ἔλθω διατάξομαι.

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  1. A crucial word that Paul repeats in this passage is συνέρχομαι, which Aristotle uses to describe people joining together to form communities (Aristotle, Pol. 3.4.3; 3.5.10; 3.6.7; 6.5.2). How many times does he use a form of this verb?  In what part of the passage does it tend to occur?  What is its significance in this passage?
  2. In this passage, Paul uses 2nd person plural forms most frequently, but occasionally switches to 1st or 3rd person. Can you detect any pattern when he avoids the 2nd person? How do these changes add to the rhetorical effect Paul might be aiming at?
  3. How does Paul organize this passage rhetorically? What key words or phrases indicate that he is ending one section and beginning a new one?
  4. What language does Paul include that points to hellenistic customs? To disparities in wealth and social rank? To inequalities among the Corinthian community? What are his recommendations for countering these inequalities?
  5. Commentators on this passage argue that Paul is alluding to several passages from Hebrew scriptures: the covenant made on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 24:5-8 and the new covenant in which God will write his law on the hearts of his people in Jeremiah 31:31-34 (LXX 38:31-34) and the anamnesis directive in Lev. 24:7, Ps. 38.1 and 70:1, Wis. 16:6. Find those passages in Greek. How might they add another layer to what Paul is writing?

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