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1 Cor 11:27-34 "communion curse"?

(Garth D. Wiebe, June 2015)

1 Cor 11:27-34 is a bit awkward to translate into the English.  Unfortunately, this passage, especially as rendered in English, has been misunderstood in a number of ways.

One misunderstanding is that there is some sort of curse of sickness and/or death if you do not perform the ceremony of the Lord's Supper correctly.

Another misunderstanding is that you have to "get right with God," or else "get right with your brother," or both, before you can partake, or else you will be cursed with sickness and/or death.

Jesus instituted the "Lord's Supper" on the evening before his death.  The accounts of this are in the gospels.  He specified what it was for, and that it was to "recognize" and "remember."  Those are the two key words: recognize and remember.

In 1 Cor 11:27-34, Paul addresses behavior that he identifies in verses 20-22:

"20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.  22 What!  Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink?  Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I praise you?  In this I will not praise you." (NASB'95)
It should be clear from the above that the Corinthians are not "remembering" or "recognizing" the body and blood of the Lord, given the above behavior.

Now, we know that the body of Jesus was brutalized for our afflictions, and the blood of Jesus was shed for the remission of sins that saves us from the wrath of God to come.  Because all afflictions are paid for in his body, we are free from the the devil and his works.  Because sins are paid for in his blood, we are forgiven.

If you believe that.

Obviously, if one does not recognize the blood of Jesus for the remission of sins, one is not saved from the wrath of God to come. However, Paul does not comment on this point later in verses 27-34; he cannot, because there is no tangible evidence of being saved from the wrath of God to come until the wrath of God comes, which is not yet.

On the other hand, it is easy to comment on being saved from our afflictions, which would cause some amount of sickness and death if we are not saved from them.  So he does just that, using that evidence of sickness and death as a case in point to show that they are not recognizing the body of Jesus that was broken for them, that they would live healed and healthy lives.

The Lord's Supper is not a "magic" blessing, nor is it a "magic" curse to fear.  It is an object lesson that is strongly identified with the body and blood of Jesus.  The Lord's Supper is not "mystical."  Perhaps the blood and body of Jesus is mystical, as it relates to afflictions and sins, but the Lord's Supper is not.  By the blood of Jesus our sins are pardoned, and by the body of Jesus our afflictions are paid for.  We accept these by faith.  We use the Lord's Supper as an object of identification.  In the case of the Corinthian situation, "one is hungry, another is drunk" shows their disregard for the body and blood of Jesus.  So they have sickness and death among them, because they do not recognize and remember the body of Jesus, as shown by Paul's rebuke that "one is hungry, another is drunk."

In 1 Cor 11:27-34, it is important to look into the meanings of the original words used, because they are awkward in English translation. In the following interlinear graphic, I have boxed some key words in different colors, which words are often misunderstood, often even mistranslated.

First, in the blue boxes is the word αναξιως.  This is an adverb, not an adjective form, of describing something done "without value," but we do not have a corresponding English adverb ("value-ly").  As an adverb, it modifies the verbs "eating" and "drinking."  As an adverb, it describes "how" one is eating and drinking.  That is just grammar.  It is not an adjective, which would modify a noun or pronoun, such as the pronoun "whoever."  It does not describe anything about the "whoever" person.  Remember verse 21:  " is hungry, another is drunk..." That is "how" they were partaking of the Lord's Supper.  "Hungry" is an adjective that describes them.  "Drunk" is an adjective that describes them.  "Without value" is "how" one is partaking of it, an adverb.  It is not talking about the person's "worth," "sin in his life," "ought against a brother," or anything else about the person.  It is talking about the "worth" of the way that he partakes of the Lord's Supper and, by identification, the "worth" of the body and blood of Jesus, which they obviously don't "value," since "one is hungry, another is drunk."

Next, in the purple box is the word ενοχος.  This is sometimes translated "guilt," or some such thing.  It is not a matter of "guilt," but "liability," meaning "responsibility" for the consequences of their attitudes and resulting actions.  That is nothing more than common sense.  They are liable "of the body and blood," genitive case, not liable "to the body and blood," dative case.  In other words, one is liable concerning, or regarding, the body and blood of the Lord.

Next, there are seven words boxed in red.  They are all variations of the same root word.  The base is the word κρινω (the verb, "decide") and related forms that begin with κρι__, which simply have to do with making a decision, a judgment concerning some matter, any matter.  None of these words speak of "condemnation," but rather simply making judgments, and consequences for those choices.

In the first and seventh red box is κριμα, which has the -μα tag on it, which is a morpheme that means "effect," or "result," or "manifestation" of whatever it modifies.  So κρι-μα means "decide-effect," or "decision-effect," the result or consequence or manifestation that comes from making a decision, or the result or consequence or manifestation that comes from having decided something, whatever that may be.

In the second and third red boxes is δια-κριν__, which has the preposition δια, which means "through," as a prefix to the word.  This makes it "through-decide," which means to deliberate "through" something thoroughly before making a decision about it.

In the fourth and fifth red boxes is _κριν__ which is simply to decide, to make a judgment about something.

In the sixth red box is κατα-κρι__, which has the preposition κατα, which means "down-against," as a prefix to the word.  This works very much like the English preposition "against."  Something that is spatially "down-against" something else can cause that something else to move "with" it, or it can prevent that something else from moving in opposition to it, so it becomes an imposition upon it to constrain it.  Therefore, the compound word in the original text in context refers to a decision or judgment "against," so as to "constrain" someone or something else.

Finally, in the green box is the word παιδευομεθα, which is simply the verb form of "child," except that we don't have such a word in English.  If you "child" someone, then you are treating that person as if he were a child.  In many cases in the Bible, it refers to nothing more than being "trained" (Acts 7:22, 22:3, 2 Tim 2:25, Tit 2:11).  One of the things that you do with a child is discipline and chasten the child, for the child's own good.  You don't condemn the child, obviously, on account of the child acting childish.

The above should clear up the word confusion.  As a result, we can re-read this in a more logical and reasonable light:

Verse 27 points out that you need to value the Lord's Supper, since it is an identification concerning the body and blood of Jesus, otherwise you are liable, because you are held accountable concerning the body and blood of Jesus.

Verse 28 points out that you ought to examine yourself accordingly.

Verse 29 says that there will be evident an "effect," if you consider it of no value, because you did not discriminate the body.

Verse 30 says that this effect is that many are weak and sick, and some have died.

Verse 31 says that if we have been discriminating, then we have not been being judged.  Note that the verbs are in the imperfect tense, denoting an action that started in the past and did not complete, and therefore continue from that point.

Verse 32 says that since we are being judged under the Lord, that we are being trained as children (i.e. child-trained), so that there will not be a judgment against us; we will not be judged with the world.

Verse 33 again tells them to behave properly with regard to the Lord's Supper.

Verse 34 tells them to do things that are not of the Lord's Supper elsewhere, so that there will not be consequences as a result.

Granted that this is difficult to translate literally into proper English, let me offer my best effort, kind of half-literal, half paraphrase:

"27 So that whoever may be eating this bread or drinking the cup of the Lord without valuing [it] will be liable concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  28 Yet let him be testing [himself] and thus let [him] be eating out of the bread and let [him] be drinking out of the cup, 29 for the [one] eating and drinking without valuing [it] is eating and drinking to himself to the consequence of that decision, not discriminating the body of the Lord.  30 Through this among you many [are] weak and sick and enough are sleeping.  31 For if we have been discriminating, we have not ever been being judged.  32 Being judged yet under the Lord we are being child-trained, that we may not be judged against together with the world.  33 So therefore, my brothers, coming together to eat, be waiting for one another.  34 If yet any may be hungering, let [him] be eating at home, that you may be coming together not into the consequence of that decision.  Yet the rest I will be prescribing as when I may be coming."
Here are pointers to the various words, according to Strong's (biblical Greek) and the LSJ (classical Greek):

αξιος (adj) "value"

αναξιος (adj) "without-value"
ενοχος (adj) "held in (liable)"
κρινω (verb) "decide"
παιδευω (verb) "child"
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