Tag Archives: Markus barth

Christ – The One and Only Sacrament (Part 5 of 5)

I have written on the previous three occasions of Markus Barth’s thoughts on the Lord’s Supper: its Jewish connection, its joyful fellowship centered on the sacrificial death of Christ, and its relevance to social ethics in the life of the church.  The final chapter of his Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper takes a look at perhaps the strongest biblical text for sacramentalism, John 6:26-58; sacramentalism being understood simply as a strong attribution of spiritual efficacy to the consumption of bread and wine.

John 6:26-34     Jesus’ discourse on working for food that does not perish

John 6:35-51a   Jesus’ affirmation of himself as the substance and the giver of the bread of life

John 6:51b-58   Jesus’ teaching on eating his flesh and drinking his blood

He begins by setting forth three areas where John appears to diverge from the perspective on the Lord’s Supper that the rest of the New Testament has:

  1. John is thought to most vividly emphasize the conflict between Jesus and the Jews.  While the Synoptics embrace Christ as the Jewish fulfillment (e.g. linkage of Lord’s Supper and Passover), Jesus attacks the Jews in the strongest language found in the Gospels , e.g. “You are of your father, the devil!”
  2. John is thought to create a different impression of the Lord’s Supper than 1 Corinthians 10-11.  For Paul, it’s a communal proclamation of the Lord’s death that should manifest a concern for the poor among the church. However, John 6 seems to indicate that individual consumption of bread and wine brings individual salvation.
  3. For John, the criterion of the faith in Christ that the rest of the New Testament announces seems to be faith in the sacramental meal.  One cannot have the former without embracing the latter.

To begin to assess John 6, Barth distinguishes four schools of thought on the chapter as it relates to the Lord’s Supper: Continue reading Christ – The One and Only Sacrament (Part 5 of 5)

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The Lord’s Supper is an Ethical Act (Part 4 of 5)

I have shown over the past two posts that the Lord’s Supper has continuity with the Jewish Passover and it is an enjoyment of fellowship which finds its source in the historical, sacrificial death of Jesus.  Now New Testament scholar Markus Barth addresses the question: What does ethics have to do with the Lord’s Supper?  In my Christian life, I have viewed the Lord’s Supper from such an individualistic focus that I failed to appreciate how it relates to Christian behavior, especially within the community.  I would like to share some summary bullet points from the third chapter of his work on the Lord’s Supper, Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper.  The text in focus is 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Continue reading The Lord’s Supper is an Ethical Act (Part 4 of 5)

Communion with Christ: Is It Caused or Signified by the Lord’s Supper? (Part 3 of 5)

Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper consists of a four-part analysis: three chapters on the subject of the Communion and a final chapter evaluating the relationship of John 6 with 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 the first chapter, “Communion with Israel”, Barth argues for essential continuity between the Jewish Passover and the Christian “Lord’s Supper”.  He focuses mainly on the so-called institution texts in the Synoptic Gospels, in effect, to view the Lord’s Supper through the lens of the Passover.

In the second chapter, Barth shifts his focus to the Pauline letter of First Corinthians, with emphasis on 10:16-17 and 11:26 as pre-eminent verses for understanding the significance of the Supper. Continue reading Communion with Christ: Is It Caused or Signified by the Lord’s Supper? (Part 3 of 5)

The Unity Between the Jewish Passover and the Lord’s Supper (Part 2 of 5)

Markus Barth, the author of the book Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper: Communion with Israel, with Christ, and Among the Guests, was the son of renowned theologian Karl Barth and a fine New Testament scholar himself.  He had keen interest in the topic of the Lord’s Supper and wrote and spoke of it: including The Last Supper (1945) and a series of lectures in 1986 at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where he had served as professor of New Testament for ten years.

I appreciate Markus Barth because of his commitment to the work of exegesis.  As did his father, he had courage to approach the Scriptures in a fresh manner, while maintaining respect for their authority.  It is this fresh approach applied to the Lord’s Supper that caught my attention a couple of years ago.  It is also what has led me to post a review of Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper at this time.

The title of the book suggests that the significance of the Lord’s Supper has been lost to some degree.  Thus, Barth returns to the Bible for a bold look at this ceremony of the church to reconnect with its intended meaning. Continue reading The Unity Between the Jewish Passover and the Lord’s Supper (Part 2 of 5)

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.