Was a Common Cup Used at the Last Supper?
Just for fun I want to differ from the common cup idea on the basis of historical argument. But first! I want the common cup, I like the common cup, and I think the common cup affords a better way of visually teaching the truth behind the Words of Institution. That said, I doubt very much that a common cup was used at the Last Supper for the Lord’s Supper.
Remember, this is the Passover meal we are talking about. Samuel Ginsberg and Nahum Glatzer have a very nice volume on the historical practice of Ha-Seder shel Pesach, Ha-Haggadah shel Pesach. From very early times, that is, at the time of the Incarnation and possibly before, the Seder was celebrated with several “cups,” most poured out individually, then blessed. The first cup, the cup of sanctification, was drunk at the beginning. Some traditions have this as a common cup passed all around, some have them poured individually, then blessed. The second cup, the cup of Praise, was poured individually and accompanied the main dish. After the meal the Afikomen, the bread remaining from the beginning of the meal, set aside for special blessing, is distributed, each person breaking off a part for himself. The Third Cup was the cup of Redemption, also called the Cup of Blessing, which was poured individually, then blessed. The Fourth cup, the cup of Praise, was poured individually and then blessed. The historical evidence can be in error. But when the Bible says, “After they had supped, he took the cup, and when he had given thanks,” it seems as if the Cup of Redemption, the third cup, is being used for the Lord’s Supper. It follows just after the common loaf of the Afikomen. Another argument: Look at DaVinci’s Last Supper; you will see individual cups at the table, recreating the scene as DaVinci understood the Passover Celebration.
Now, these arguments don’t prove anything. What I want to emphasize is that the phrase “the Cup of Blessing, which we bless” could easily have applied to a round of individual drinks set aside for the purpose of celebrating the Redemption. And I want to emphasize that it is early church tradition and teaching value, not the evidence of Scripture, that motivates us to use a Common Cup. That tradition and teaching value should not be lightly dismissed. But that testimony should not speak in place of Scripture where in fact the Holy Spirit is silent.
– Joseph Abrahamson
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