1 Corinthians 11:29
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
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(29) Unworthily.—This word is not in the best Greek MSS.

Damnation to himself.—The Greek word hero does not imply final condemnation. On the contrary, it only means such temporal judgments as the sickness and weakness subsequently mentioned, and which are to save the man from sharing the final damnation of the heathen.

Not discerning the Lord’s body.—The words “the Lord’s” are to be omitted, the weight of MS. evidence being altogether against their authenticity. 1Corinthians 11:30 is a parenthesis, and 1Corinthians 11:31 re-opens with this same verb. The force of the passage is, “He who eats and drinks without discerning the Body (i.e., the Church) in that assembly, eats and drinks a judgment to himself; for if we would discern ourselves we should not be judged.”

There are some important points to be borne in mind regarding this interpretation of the passage. (1) The Greek word, which we render “discerning,” “discern,” signifies to arrive at a right estimate of the character or quality of a thing. (2) The fault which St. Paul was condemning was the practice which the Corinthians had fallen into of regarding these gatherings as opportunities for individual indulgence, and not as Church assemblies. They did not rightly estimate such gatherings as being corporate meetings; they did not rightly estimate themselves as not now isolated individuals, but members of the common Body. They ought to discern in these meetings of the Church a body; they ought to discern in themselves parts of a body. Not only is this interpretation, I venture to think, the most accurate and literal interpretation of the Greek, but it is the only view which seems to me to make the passage bear intelligibly on the point which St. Paul is considering, and the real evil which he seeks to counteract. (3) To refer these words directly or indirectly to the question of a physical presence in the Lord’s Supper, is to divorce them violently from their surroundings, and to make them allude to some evil for which the explicit and practical remedy commended in 1Corinthians 11:33-34 would be no remedy at all. Moreover. if the word “body” means the Lord’s physical body, surely the word “Lord’s” would have been added, and the words, “and the blood,” for the non-recognition of the blood would be just as great an offence. (4) St. Paul never uses the word “body” in reference to our Lord’s physical body, without some clear indication that such is meant. (See Romans 7:4; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 1:22.) On the other hand, the use of the word “Body,” or “Body of Christ,” meaning the Church, is frequent. We have had it but a few verses before, in reference to this very subject (1Corinthians 10:16). It is also to be found in Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:30. (In this last passage, “of His flesh and of His bones,” are not in the best MSS., and destroy the real force of the “Body,” which means “Church.”)

11:23-34 The apostle describes the sacred ordinance, of which he had the knowledge by revelation from Christ. As to the visible signs, these are the bread and wine. What is eaten is called bread, though at the same time it is said to be the body of the Lord, plainly showing that the apostle did not mean that the bread was changed into flesh. St. Matthew tells us, our Lord bid them all drink of the cup, ch. Mt 26:27, as if he would, by this expression, provide against any believer being deprived of the cup. The things signified by these outward signs, are Christ's body and blood, his body broken, his blood shed, together with all the benefits which flow from his death and sacrifice. Our Saviour's actions were, taking the bread and cup, giving thanks, breaking the bread, and giving both the one and the other. The actions of the communicants were, to take the bread and eat, to take the cup and drink, and to do both in remembrance of Christ. But the outward acts are not the whole, or the principal part, of what is to be done at this holy ordinance. Those who partake of it, are to take him as their Lord and Life, yield themselves up to him, and live upon him. Here is an account of the ends of this ordinance. It is to be done in remembrance of Christ, to keep fresh in our minds his dying for us, as well as to remember Christ pleading for us, in virtue of his death, at God's right hand. It is not merely in remembrance of Christ, of what he has done and suffered; but to celebrate his grace in our redemption. We declare his death to be our life, the spring of all our comforts and hopes. And we glory in such a declaration; we show forth his death, and plead it as our accepted sacrifice and ransom. The Lord's supper is not an ordinance to be observed merely for a time, but to be continued. The apostle lays before the Corinthians the danger of receiving it with an unsuitable temper of mind; or keeping up the covenant with sin and death, while professing to renew and confirm the covenant with God. No doubt such incur great guilt, and so render themselves liable to spiritual judgements. But fearful believers should not be discouraged from attending at this holy ordinance. The Holy Spirit never caused this scripture to be written to deter serious Christians from their duty, though the devil has often made this use of it. The apostle was addressing Christians, and warning them to beware of the temporal judgements with which God chastised his offending servants. And in the midst of judgement, God remembers mercy: he many times punishes those whom he loves. It is better to bear trouble in this world, than to be miserable for ever. The apostle points our the duty of those who come to the Lord's table. Self-examination is necessary to right attendance at this holy ordinance. If we would thoroughly search ourselves, to condemn and set right what we find wrong, we should stop Divine judgements. The apostle closes all with a caution against the irregularities of which the Corinthians were guilty at the Lord's table. Let all look to it, that they do not come together to God's worship, so as to provoke him, and bring down vengeance on themselves.For he that eateth ... - In order to excite them to a deeper reverence for this ordinance, and to a more solemn mode of observing it, Paul in this verse states another consequence of partaking of it in an improper and irreverent manner; compare 1 Corinthians 11:27.

Eateth and drinketh damnation - This is evidently a figurative expression, meaning that by eating and drinking improperly he incurs condemnation; which is here expressed by eating and drinking condemnation itself. The word "damnation" we now apply, in common language, exclusively to the future and final punishment of the wicked in hell. But the word used here does not of necessity refer to that; and according to our use of the word now, there is a harshness and severity in our translation which the Greek does not require, and which probably was not conveyed by the word "damnation" when the translation was made. In the margin it is correctly rendered "judgment." The word here used (κρῖμα krima) properly denotes judgment; the result of judging, that is, a sentence; then a sentence by which one is condemned, or condemnation; and then punishment; see Romans 3:8; Romans 13:2. It has evidently the sense of judgment here; and means, that by their improper manner of observing this ordinance, they would expose themselves to the divine displeasure, and to punishment. And it refers, I think, to the punishment or judgment which the apostle immediately specifies, 1 Corinthians 11:30, 1 Corinthians 11:32. It means a manifestation of the divine displeasure which might be evinced in this life; and which, in the case of the Corinthians, was manifested in the judgments which God had brought upon them. It cannot be denied, however, that a profane and intentionally irreverent manner of observing the Lord's Supper will meet with the divine displeasure in the eternal world, and aggravate the doom of those who are guilty of it. But it is clear that this was not the punishment which the apostle had here in his eye. This is apparent:

(1) Because the Corinthians did eat unworthily, and yet the judgments inflicted on them were only temporal, that is, weakness, sickness, and temporal death 1 Corinthians 11:30; and,

(2) Because the reason assigned for these judgments is, that they might not be condemned with the wicked; that is, as the wicked are in hell, 1 Corinthians 11:32. Whitby. Compare 1 Peter 4:17.

Not discerning the Lord's body - Not discriminating" μὴ διακρίνων mē diakrinōn between the bread which is used on this occasion and common and ordinary food. Not making the proper difference and distinction between this and common meals. It is evident that this was the leading offence of the Corinthians (see the notes at 1 Corinthians 11:20-21), and this is the proper idea which the original conveys. It does not refer to any intellectual or physical power to perceive that that bread represented the body of the Lord; not to any spiritual perception which it is often supposed that piety has to distinguish this; not to any view which faith may be supposed to have to discern the body of the Lord through the elements; but to the fact that they did not "distinguish" or "discriminate" between this and common meals. They did not regard it in a proper manner, but supposed it to be simply an historical commemoration of an event, such as they were in the habit of observing in honor of an idol or a hero by a public celebration. They, therefore, are able to "discern the Lord's body" in the sense intended here, who with a serious mind, regard it as an institution appointed by the Lord Jesus to commemorate his death; and who "distinguish" thus between this and ordinary meals and all festivals and feasts designed to commemorate other events. In other words, who deem it to be designed to show forth the fact that his body was broken for sin, and who desire to observe it as such. It is evident that all true Christians may have ability of this kind, and need not incur condemnation by any error in regard to this. The humblest and obscurest follower of the Saviour, with the feeblest faith and love, may regard it as designed to set forth the death of his Redeemer; and observing it thus, will meet with the divine approbation.

29. damnation—A mistranslation which has put a stumbling-block in the way of many in respect to communicating. The right translation is "judgment." The judgment is described (1Co 11:30-32) as temporal.

not discerning—not duty judging: not distinguishing in judgment (so the Greek: the sin and its punishment thus being marked as corresponding) from common food, the sacramental pledges of the Lord's body. Most of the oldest manuscripts omit "Lord's" (see 1Co 11:27). Omitting also "unworthily," with most of the oldest manuscripts, we must translate, "He that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, IF he discern not the body" (Heb 10:29). The Church is "the body of Christ" (1Co 12:27). The Lord's body is His literal body appreciated and discerned by the soul in the faithful receiving, and not present in the elements themselves.

He that eateth and drinketh unworthily; in the sense before mentioned, either having no remote right or no present right to partake in that ordinance, being an unbeliever, or a resolved unholy or ignorant person; or irreverently and irreligiously. He

eateth and drinketh krima, damnation, or judgment, it is no matter which we translate it; for if he brings God’s judgments upon him in this life, they will end in eternal damnation, without a timely repentance; but it is

to himself, not to him that is at the same table with him, unless he hath been guilty of some neglect of his duty to him.

Not discerning the Lord’s body; and his guilt lieth here, that he doth not discern and distinguish between ordinary and common bread, and that bread which is the representation of the Lord’s body, but useth the one as carelessly, and with as little preparation and regard to what he doth, as he uses the other.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily,.... As before explained, 1 Corinthians 11:27 "eateth and drinketh damnation to himself"; or guilt, or judgment, or condemnation; for by either may the word be rendered; nor is eternal damnation here meant; but with respect to the Lord's own people, who may through unbelief, the weakness of grace, and strength of corruption, behave unworthily at this supper, temporal chastisement, which is distinguished from condemnation with the world, and is inflicted in order to prevent it, 1 Corinthians 11:32 and with respect to others it intends temporal punishment, as afflictions and diseases of body, or corporeal death, as it is explained in 1 Corinthians 11:30. This they may be said to eat and drink, because their unworthy eating and drinking are the cause and means of it. Just as Adam and Eve might be said to eat condemnation to themselves and posterity, because their eating of the forbidden fruit was the cause of it. So the phrase, "does not eat condemnation", is used in the Persic version of John 3:18 for "is not condemned". And let it be observed, that such an one is said to eat and drink this judgment or condemnation to himself, and not another; he is injurious to nobody but himself: this may serve to make the minds of such easy, who are not so entirely satisfied with some persons who sit down with them at the Lord's table, when they consider that it is to their own injury, and not to the hurt of others they eat and drink:

not discerning the Lord's body. This is an instance of their eating and drinking unworthily, and a reason why they eat and drink condemnation to themselves, or contract guilt, or expose themselves either to chastisement or punishment; because they distinguish not the Lord's supper from an ordinary and common meal, but confound them together, as did many of the Corinthians, who also did not distinguish the body of Christ in it from the body of the paschal lamb; or discern not the body of Christ, and distinguish it from the bread, the sign or symbol of it; or discern not the dignity, excellency, and usefulness of Christ's body, as broken and offered for us, in which he bore our sins on the tree, and made satisfaction for them; a commemoration of which is made in this ordinance.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not {m} discerning the Lord's body.

(m) He is said to discern the Lord's body that has consideration of the worthiness of it, and therefore comes to eat of this food with great reverence.

1 Corinthians 11:29. Since ἀναξίως is spurious (see the critical remarks), ὁ ἐσθίων κ. πίνων might be understood absolutely: the eater and drinker, who turns the Supper, as was actually done at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 11:22; 1 Corinthians 11:34, into a banquet and carousal. This was the view I held myself formerly, taking μὴ διακρίνων in the sense: because he does not, etc., as in Romans 4:19. But after 1 Corinthians 11:28, whose ἐσθίειν κ. πίνειν finds expression here again, it is simpler and most in accordance with the text to render: “He who eats and drinks (the bread and the cup), eats and drinks a judgment to himself, if he does not, etc.,” so that in this way μὴ διακρίνων κ.τ.λ[1884] conditions the predicate, and is not a modal definition of the subject. The apostle might have written simply κρῖμα γὰρ ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει κ. πίνει, μὴ διακρ. τ. σ.; but the circumstantial description of the subject of the sentence for the second time by ὁ γὰρ ἐσθίων κ. πίνων carries a certain solemnity with it, making one feel the risk incurred by going on to eat and drink.

κρῖμα ἑαυτῷ κ.τ.λ[1885]] a concrete expression (comp 2 Corinthians 2:16) of the thought: he draws down judicial sentence upon himself by his eating and drinking. The power to effect this turns on the ἔνοχος ἔσται Κ.Τ.Λ[1887], 1 Corinthians 11:27; and therefore nothing is decided here against the symbolical interpretation of the words of institution. That the κρῖμα is a penal one, is implied in the context (Romans 2:2; Romans 3:8; Romans 13:2; Galatians 5:10). The absence of the article, again, denotes not eternal condemnation, but penal judgment in general without any limiting definition. From 1 Corinthians 11:30-31 we see that Paul was thinking, in the first place, of temporal judgments as the penalty of unworthy communicating, and that such judgments appeared to him as chastisements employed by God to avert from the offender eternal condemnation. With respect to the dativus incommodi ἑαντῷ, comp Romans 13:2.

μὴ διακρίνων τὸ σῶμα] if he does not form a judgment upon (so διακρ., Vulgate, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Bengel, de Wette, Weiss) the body, i.e. the body, κατʼ ἐξοχήν, the sacred body, into communion with which he enters by partaking of the Supper, and respecting which, therefore, he ought to form a judgment of the most careful kind, such as may bring him into full and deep consciousness of its sacredness and saving significance (on διακρ., comp 1 Corinthians 14:29; Matthew 16:3). Comp Chrysostom: μὴ ἐξετάζων, μὴ ἐννοῶν, ὡς χρὴ, τὸ μέγεθος τῶν προκειμένων, μὴ λογιζόμενος τὸν ὄγκον τῆς δωρεᾶς. Usually (so too Ewald, Kahnis, Hofmann) commentators have taken διακρ. in the sense of to distinguish (1 Corinthians 4:7), and have rendered accordingly: if he (or, following the reading which puts ἀναξίως after πίνων: because he) does not distinguish the body of Christ from common food.[1891] Hofmann, again, seeing that we have not τοῦ Κυρίου along with τὸ σῶμα, holds it more correct to render: if he does not distinguish the body, which he who eats this bread partakes of, from the mere bread itself. Both these ways of explaining the word, which come in substance to the same thing, proceed upon the supposition either that the body of Christ is that with which we enter into fellowship by partaking of the symbol (which is the true view), or that it is partaken of “in, with, and under” the bread (Lutheran doctrine), or by means of the transubstantiation of the bread (Roman Catholic doctrine). But in 1 Corinthians 11:31, where διεκρίνομεν is taken up again from our passage, the word means to judge, not to distinguish, and we must therefore keep to that meaning[1892] here also.

It was needless to add καὶ τὸ αἶμα to ΤῸ ΣῶΜΑ because the ΣῶΜΑ is regarded as that which had suffered death by the shedding of its blood; comp 1 Corinthians 11:26, also 1 Corinthians 10:17. The twofoldness of the elements has its significance to thought only in the equal symbolism of the two; apart from that symbolism, reference to it would be inappropriate, since, objectively, they cannot be separated.

[1884] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1885] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1887] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1891] So Luther’s gloss: who handles and deals with Christ’s body as if he cared no more for it than for common food.

[1892] Which stands in significant correspondence with κρίμα (comp. too, the oxymoron in ver. 31): a judgment … if he does not form a judgment. Hence there is the less warrant in the text for the meaning “distinguish.”

1 Corinthians 11:29. Participation in the bread and cup is itself a δοκιμασία: “For he that eats and drinks, a judgment for himself (sentence on himself) he eats and drinks”. The single art[1782] of ὁ ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, combining the acts, negatives the R.C[1783] inference from the of 1 Corinthians 11:27 (see note). Contact with Christ in this ordinance probes each man to the depths (cf. John 3:18 f., John 9:39); it is true of the Lord’s verbum visibile, as of His verbum audibile, that he who receives it ἔχει τὸν κρίνοντα αὐτόν (John 12:48). His attitude toward the Lord at His table revealed with shocking evidence the spiritual condition of many a Cor[1784] Christian—his carnality and blindness as one “not distinguishing the body”.—The two senses given by interpreters to διακρίνω are, as Hn[1785] says, somewhat blended here (“Beruht jedes Urtheilen auf Entscheiden und Unterscheiden”), as in dijudicans (Vg[1786]): one “discerns (judges clearly and rightly of) the (Lord’s) body” in the sacrament and therein “discriminates” the rite from all other eating and drinking—precisely what the Cor[1787] failed to do (1 Corinthians 11:20 ff.). They did not descry the signified in the sign, the Incarnate and Crucified in His memorial loaf and cup, and their Supper became a mere vulgar matter of meat and drink. This ordinance exposed them for what they were—σαρκικοί (1 Corinthians 3:3).—τὸ σῶμα (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:24 ff.)—a reverent aposiopesis, resembling ἡ ἡμέρα in 1 Corinthians 3:13 (see note); the explanation of some Lutherans, that τὸ σῶμα means “the substance” underlying the material element, is foreign to the context and to Apostolic times. On “the serious doctrinal question” as to what the unfaithful receive in the sacrament, see El[1788] ad loc[1789] Distinguish κρίμα (unhappily rendered “damnation” in A.V.), a judicial sentence of any kind, from κατάκριμα, the final condemnation of the sinner (32; Romans 5:16).

[1782] grammatical article.

[1783] Roman Catholic.

[1784] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1785] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1786] Latin Vulgate Translation.

[1787] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1788] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[1789] ad locum, on this passage.

29. damnation] Rather judgment, as in the margin. Wiclif, dome (as in ch. 1 Corinthians 6:4). Luther, gericht. Vulgate, judicium, “The mistranslation in our version has, says Dean Alford, “done infinite mischief.” Olshausen reminds us how in Germany a translation (see above) less strong than this, yet interpreted to mean the same thing, drove Goethe from “Church and altar.” Of what kind the judgment is the next verse explains. That it is not final condemnation that is threatened, 1 Corinthians 11:33 clearly shews (Alford, De Wette). Some MSS. and editors omit “unworthily” here. It may have been introduced from 1 Corinthians 11:27. If it be omitted, the sense is that he who eats and drinks without discerning (see next note) the Body of Christ, invites judgment on himself. If it be retained, we are to understand that he who partakes unworthily, invites God’s judgment on him because he does not discern the Lord’s Body. The latter is the reading of the ancient versions.

discerning] Dijudicans, Vulgate. Discernens, Calvin. Dass er nicht unterscheidet, Luther. Wiseli demynge, Wiclif. Because he maketh no difference of, Tyndale (after Luther). The word discern properly signifies to perceive distinctions, to distinguish. Thus Shakspeare,

“No discerner durst wag his tongue in censure,”

Henry VIII. Act i. Sc. 1,

i.e. no one who might have been inclined to exalt one king at the expense of the other. So the word discreet originally meant one who had the power of rightly distinguishing. The Greek word sometimes means to distinguish, or even to cause to differ (ch. 1 Corinthians 4:7). In the passive, in which it most frequently occurs in the N. T., it signifies to be made to differ, to doubt. Here, however, the word is used in its primary signification (cf. St Matthew 16:3, where the same word is used with the same translation), and means to decide after a thorough inquiry (search out, Chrysostom) to pierce through the impediments opposed by sense, and thus to come to a right conclusion of what is actually offered to faith in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, rather than with some, to discriminate between the Body of the Lord and other kinds of food.

the Lord’s body] Some MSS. and editors read the body.

1 Corinthians 11:29. Κρίμα) [without the article, comp. v. 32.—Not. crit.] some judgment, a disease, or the death of the body; see next verse; so that those who do not discern the Lord’s body have to atone for it in their bodies. He does not say to τὸ κατάκριμα, the condemnation.—μἠ διακρίνων, not judging as to [discerning]) Comp. Hebrews 10:29.—τὸ σῶμα, the body) supply, and the blood.—τοῦ Κυρίου, of the Lord) An Antonomasia [an appellative instead of the proper name], i.e. Jesus. The Church is not called the body of Jesus, or the body of the Lord; but the body of Christ: The question here then is about the proper body of the Lord Jesus.

Verse 29. - Unworthily. The word is not genuine here, being repeated from ver. 27; it is omitted by א, A, B, C. Eateth and drinketh damnation to himself; rather, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself There is reason to believe that the word "damnation" once had a much milder meaning in English than that which it now popularly bears. In King James's time it probably did not of necessity mean more than "an unfavourable verdict." Otherwise this would be the most unfortunate mistranslation in the whole Bible. It has probably kept thousands, as it kept Goethe, from Holy Communion. We see from ver. 32 that this "judgment" had a purely merciful and disciplinary character. Not discerning; rather, if he discern not, the Lord's body, Any one who approach? the Lord's Supper in a spirit of levity or defiance, not discriminating between it and common food, draws on himself, by so eating and drinking, a judgment which is defined in the next verse. 1 Corinthians 11:29Unworthily


Damnation (κρῖμα)

See on Mark 16:16; see on John 9:39. This false and horrible rendering has destroyed the peace of more sincere and earnest souls than any other misread passage in the New Testament. It has kept hundreds from the Lord's table. Κρῖμα is a temporary judgment, and so is distinguished from κατάκριμα condemnation, from which this temporary judgment is intended to save the participant. The distinction appears in 1 Corinthians 11:32 (see note). The A.V. of the whole passage, 1 Corinthians 11:28-34, is marked by a confusion of the renderings of κρίνειν to judge and its compounds.

Not discerning (μὴ διακρίνων)

Rev., if he discern not, bringing out the conditional force of the negative particle. The verb primarily means to separate, and hence to make a distinction, discriminate. Rev., in margin, discriminating. Such also is the primary meaning of discern (discernere to part or separate), so that discerning implies a mental act of discriminating between different things. So Bacon: "Nothing more variable than voices, yet men can likewise discern these personally." This sense has possibly become a little obscured in popular usage. From this the transition is easy and natural to the sense of doubting, disputing, judging, all of these involving the recognition of differences. The object of the discrimination here referred to, may, I think, be regarded as complex. After Paul's words (1 Corinthians 11:20, 1 Corinthians 11:22), about the degradation of the Lord's Supper, the discrimination between the Lord's body and common food may naturally be contemplated; but further, such discernment of the peculiar significance and sacredness of the Lord's body as shall make him shrink from profanation and shall stimulate him to penitence and faith.

The Lord's body

Omit Lord's and read the body. This adds force to discerning.

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