Markus Barth on the Lord’s Supper (Part 1 of 5)

I made reference in a previous post to Markus Barth’s collection entitled Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper: Communion with Israel, with Christ, and Among the Guests.  Taken from lectures given in 1986 at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, this work is a treatment of the theological significance of the Lord’s Supper.  I have not seen a review of this book online and think that it would be worthwhile to present a review of Barth’s study, made available for those who have interest in this topic.

Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper consists of a four-part analysis: three chapters on the subject of communion and a final chapter evaluating the relationship of John 6 to sacramental theology.

The chapter titles are as follows:

  1. Communion with Israel: Learning from the Passover How to Celebrate the Lord’s Supper and Learning from the Jews How to Serve God
  2. Communion with Christ Crucified and Risen: Public Joy Based on Christ’s Death
  3. Communion among Christ’s Guests: The Honor of Those Despised
  4. The Witness of John 6: Christ – the One and Only Sacrament

In his introduction, Barth provides four examples of how the Lord’s Supper observance over the years has been corrupted to some degree:

  1. The overshadowing of the meal by “a somber and depressing mood”
  2. The lack of clarity and persuasiveness in language describing the Supper (e.g. sacrament, transubstantiation, consubstantiation, etc.)
  3. The exploitation of the doctrine and observance of communion for the purpose of excommunication
  4. Church divisions brought on by controversies concerning the Supper

I’ll begin in the next post to discuss how Barth understands the relationship between the Jewish Passover and the Lord’s Supper.  In my view, the value of this study is that Barth develops his thoughts with a clear, exegetical approach.  His treatment combines attention  paid to the Scriptures with a desire to be a practical help for the church in its observance of the Lord’s Supper.


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