the weblog of Alan Knox

In remembrance of me

Posted by on Feb 12, 2010 in ordinances/sacraments, scripture | 10 comments

Two years ago, after attending an ecclesiology workshop, I wrote a post called “In remembrance of me” concerning that phrase in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. The question is this: Does the phrase “in remembrance of me” in Paul’s description of the Last Supper indicate a reminder for us or a reminder for Jesus? In my post I said that I was hoping to study this in more detail. It’s been two years, and I still haven’t studied it in more detail. What do you think?

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In remembrance of me

The title of this post is more than a phrase carved in the side of the communion table at the front of most church buildings. The phrase comes from Luke and 1 Corinthians concerning the Lord’s Supper:

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19-20 ESV)

For I [Paul] received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 ESV)

In each case, the bread and/or cup is said to be given “in remembrance of me”. Last weekend at the “House Church Workshop” by New Testament Restoration Fellowship, Tim Melvin said something interesting about this phrase. He said that this reminder is not for us, but for Jesus. I have not come to a conclusion about this phrase, but I wanted to put Tim’s argument down in print in order to consider it and in order to get feedback from others.

To begin with, the phrase “in remembrance of me” is a translation of the Greek phrase εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν (eis tÄ“n emÄ“n anamnÄ“sin). The main noun in the prepositional phrase is from ἀνάμνησις (anamnÄ“sis) which is usually translated “reminder, remembrance, or memory”. Every Christian group agrees that the Lord’s Supper is a form of reminder, although some would say that it is much more than that.

The questions concerns the pronoun ἐμὴν (emÄ“n) which is from the possessive pronoun ἐμός (emos). According to BDAG (the standard Greek lexicon), ἐμός (emos) always demonstrates possession (i.e. “my”, “mine”, “what belongs to me”), except in Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. In those three occurrences, BDAG says that the pronoun ἐμός (emos) does not demonstrate possession but content. Thus, according to BDAG, the content of the reminder is Jesus. This is the normal interpretation of this passage.

Tim Melvin (and he told me that he got this from Steve Atkerson) says that we should translate the pronoun ἐμός (emos) as a possessive pronoun. Thus, the Lord’s Supper is not a reminder whose content is Jesus (that is, it reminds us of Jesus), but instead the Lord’s Supper is a reminder which belongs to Jesus (that is, it reminds Jesus of something).

This may sound very strange. Why would God need a reminder? However, this would not be unprecedented in Scripture. Consider what God told Noah about the rainbow:

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16 ESV)

While we normally think of the rainbow as a reminder to us, this is not what Scripture says. In this passage, God says twice that he will see the rainbow, and that the rainbow will remind him of the covenant.

Therefore, according to this argument, the Lord’s Supper is a sign of the new covenant, much like the rainbow was a sign of God’s covenant with Noah. And, just as the rainbow would remind God of his covenant with Noah, the Lord’s Supper reminds God (through Jesus) of the new covenant that he has made with his children.

By the way, NTRF is not the only people to suggest this interpretation of the phrase “in remembrance of me” or “for my reminder”. Apparently, Joachim Jeremias said that Jesus used ἀνάμνησις (anamnÄ“sis) (“remembrance, reminder”) in the sense of a reminder for God: “The Lord’s Supper would thus be an enacted prayer”. (from NIDNTT, Vol III, p. 244) I have not yet looked up this reference to check the quote in context.

As I said earlier, I have not decided what I think about this argument. I will say that in my cursory study, they are correct about the use of the pronoun ἐμός (emos). It seems that in all other occurrences of the pronoun, the pronoun is used to refer to possession, not content. Also, it is true that this would not be a unique reference to something reminding God (or Jesus) of his covenant. Therefore, the argument is persuasive.

I hope to continue to study this view of the phrase “in remembrance of me” or “for my reminder”. Furthermore, I hope to continue to think about some of the implications of this view concerning the Lord’s Supper. I would love to hear your thoughts concerning their position and any implications for the Lord’s Supper.


10 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-12-2010

    I don’t know about that. The Supper is given for us to remind us of a past event and to point to a future reality. The rainbow was an ongoing sign that God would not destroy the world by flood. To me, the Supper is multi-purpose: a reminder of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, a visible sign of the fellowship of His elect and a proclamation of His people of our faith in Him.

  2. 2-12-2010

    never heard this before. hmm…

  3. 2-12-2010

    Arthur,

    Notice that in Genesis 9, God says that the rainbow is for his own remembrance, not as a reminder to people: “When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.”

    So, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Jesus is saying the same thing about our community meals.

    Cindy,

    Yeah, it is interesting to think about.

    -Alan

  4. 2-12-2010

    Wasn’t circumcision that way also? In Exodus when Moses wife circumcises her son when God is about to destroy Moses it seems that God was reminded of something. I don’t know so what do you think?

  5. 2-12-2010

    We had the NTRF folks come out and put on a weekend talk a couple of years ago. This was one of the best parts. We have been enjoying this aspect of the Lords Supper ever since.

  6. 2-12-2010

    Lionel,

    I asked first… what do you think?

    Darrell,

    Yeah that was one of the most interesting aspects of the NTRF workshop that I went to.

    -Alan

  7. 2-12-2010

    I think so, I believe all of God’s covenant was a reminder to Himself, because ultimately the covenants that were everlasting were unilateral.

  8. 2-20-2011

    Vine says: in Christ’s command in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Luk 22:19; 1Cr 11:24, 25, not “in memory of” but in an affectionate calling of the Person Himself to mind..

    I like to think that the Lords Supper should cause us to reflect back on the person Himself. He hadn’t died when the phrase was used in Luke. The disciples may have reflected back on His call….an illustration of His love…a poignant moment in their relationship with Him or any number of incidents that stood out in their memory of their time with Him. Yes we should remember his death and all it’s implications, but we should also allow the Lord’s Table to jar our memories of Him…times when He’s touched us in a special way, times of intimacy, times of rebuke… things that stand out in our relationship with Him that causes our heart to swell with emotion.

  9. 2-20-2011

    Steve,

    This post is about the meaning of the pronoun ἐμὴν (emēn), not the noun ἀνάμνησις (anamnēsis) (“remembrance, reminder”).

    -Alan

  10. 4-9-2012

    Amen Alan. You have hit the nail on the head. This is exactly what the Lord has revealed to me when I was meditating on the scriptures. This is indeed a reminder to our Lord for claiming our healing based on the fact that His body was broken for our healing.

    Thank you once again

    In Him
    Sam