August 21, 2018

The Cup in the Lord’s Supper

By Guthrie Dean

Please read Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Cor. 10: 16, 21; and 11: 2528. Regarding the cup, Thayer says: "By metonymy of the container for the contained, the contents of the cup, what is offered to be drunk, Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; I Cor. 10:21; 11:27 (Greek - English Lexicon of the New Testament; Page 533).

What Does Metonymy Mean?

(1) "A figure of speech that consists in using the name of one thing for that of something else with which it is associated (as in 'spend the evening reading Shakespeare', 'lands belonging to the crown', 'demanded action by City Hall', 'ogling the heavily mascaraed skirt at the next table'); use one word for another that it may be expected to suggest." - Webster's Third New International Dictionary; page 1424. (1966).

(2) "Lit. 'Change of name'. A figure of speech which consists in substituting for the name of a thing the name of an attribute of it or of something closely related. (Men say that they admit metonymy, and say under the form of bread is the body of Christ.)" - Oxford English Dictionary; Volume VI; page 398. (1933).

(3) "In rhetoric, the use of the name of one thing for that of another which it naturally suggests, as a scepter for sovereignty, or of the bottle for strong drink." - The New Century Dictionary; Volume Two; Page 1053. (1927).

(4) "Metonymy being the name of the figure of speech in which an attribute or suggestive word is used for the name of the thing meant." - Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins; page 233, by William and Mary Morris. (1962).

(5) " 'Can you drink of the Chalice that I will drink?' Here again there is a metaphor ('drink the chalice' meaning undergo the fate) combined with a metonymy (cup for what is contained in it.) 'The power of the purse,' 'he kept an excellent cellar, an elegant wardrobe, 'setting the table in a roar,' the pick of the basket', 'from the cradle to the grave', 'he was fond of the bottle', 'amazement seized the rebel thrones.' Such expressions become sheer nonsense the moment they are taken literally." - The World of Imagery. (Metaphor and Kindred Imagery); by Stephen J. Brown; pages 153-154. (1966).

Observations on the Above

Some contend that cup in the Lord's Supper requires a literal drinking cup. But according to the above definitions of metonymy, such is not required. Metonymy is a "figure of speech which consists in substituting for the name of a thing the name of an attribute of it or something closely related." Therefore, there would have to be no literal cup present to call the fruit of the vine the "cup." Again, "use one word for another that it may be expected to suggest." This would not require a LITERAL cup in the metonymy used regarding the Lord's Supper. "In rhetoric . . . of the bottle for strong drink." One could use the word bottle to suggest strong drink, even though the drink might come from a thousand bottles; or even if the drink came from cans and jugs, instead of a LITERAL bottle. One reference above, applies metonymy to CUP in Matt. 20:22-23 and Mark 10:38-39. Read these verses carefully; where is a LITERAL cup involved here? Also THE WORLD OF IMAGERY states: "Such expressions become sheer nonsense the moment they are taken literally." (And so with the "cup" in the Lord's Supper.)

The fruit of THE vine is THE cup in Matt. 26:26-29; with no reference to any particular grape vine (even though it states THE vine), and no reference to any particular container (even though it states THE cup). This shows the kind or source. We all drink of the same cup ... the fruit of the vine. If some drank of the fruit of the tree, and some drank of the fruit of the bush, and some drank of the fruit of the vine, then we would have a plurality of CUPS. But the fruit of the vine, the grape vine, limits the cup to one; and the cup being the fruit of the vine.

The number of containers or drinking vessels no more affects the meaning of "cup" than the number of grape vines affects the meaning of "fruit of the vine."

Jesus said, "This cup is the new testament in my blood" (1 Cor. 11:25). He did not say blood IN the cup; He said cup IN the blood. This cup is not a literal container representing something. It is the fruit of the vine, "the cup of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27). (1) We drink it in remembrance of Christ (v. 25). (2) In drinking it we show forth H I S DEATH (not something else) till He come (v. 26). (3) If we eat or drink unworthily, we shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (v. 27); the only two things the bread and cup represent . . . . the body and blood of the Lord. I Cor. 10: 16 calls it "the cup of blessing." These verses cannot refer to a literal CONTAINER which in turn represents something else; for only the body, blood, and death of the Lord are under consideration; and the cup IS the New Testament in HIS blood.

Parallels to the Cup

Jacob's well (John 4:6-15) was a source of supply to Jacob, his children, and his cattle. They all drank out of or from it. This one well was the source, but they used different vessels in drinking of it. Jacob had vessels, his children had vessels, and the cattle had their vessels; and now the Samaritan woman has her vessel; but they are all drinking from the same well. Also there is one baptism (Eph. 4:5). This baptism may be administered in many different vessels or containers of water. We may baptize in a pond, river, pool, baptistery, or creek. But we are still administering the one baptism. Just so with the cup (the fruit of the vine). We still are drinking of the one cup, even though we use many different vessels in administering it. If we add "the well of Beerlehair" of Gen. 16:14 and the "well of Esek" of Gen. 26:20 to "Jacob's well" we would have THREE wells, three sources of water supply. If we add "sprinkling" and "pouring" to the immersion taught in Rom. 6:3-5 and Col. 2:12 then we would have THREE baptisms, three sources of "remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). And if we had the fruit of the cucumber vine and the fruit of the melon vine (Numbers 11:5) to the "pure blood of the grape" (Deut. 32:14) we would then have THREE cups. Three sources and three avenues of "communion with Christ." But with immersion, we have one baptism regardless of the kinds of vessels in which we administer immersion. And with the well of Jacob, they had one well, regardless of the number of vessels used from which to drink the water of Jacob's well. And with the Lord's Supper, we have the one cup, regardless of the number of drinking vessels used in administering the cup. If not, why not?

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 6, pp. 18-19
March 1968

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