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?
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 Îµá¼°Ï‚ Ï„á½´Î½ á¼Î¼á½´Î½ á¼€Î½á½±Î¼Î½Î·ÏƒÎ¹Î½ (eis tÄ“n emÄ“n anamnÄ“sin). The main noun in the prepositional phrase is from á¼€Î½á½±Î¼Î½Î·ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ (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 á¼Î¼á½´Î½ (emÄ“n) which is from the possessive pronoun á¼Î¼á½¹Ï‚ (emos). According to BDAG (the standard Greek lexicon), á¼Î¼á½¹Ï‚ (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 á¼Î¼á½¹Ï‚ (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 á¼Î¼á½¹Ï‚ (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 á¼€Î½á½±Î¼Î½Î·ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ (anamnÄ“sis) (“remembrance, reminder”) in the sense of a reminder for God: “The Lordâ€™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 á¼Î¼á½¹Ï‚ (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.