John T. Willis

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Throughout human history, different peoples in different cultures have created and used certain phrases to communicate certain ideas.

One type of linguistic terminology is called METONYMY. Metonymy is the use of one word in place of another word with which it is intimately associated.

Here is one example: A good cook prepares a wonderful dinner, and invites guests. One of the guests says: "You set a beautiful TABLE." Now, all the guests know very well that they have in mind the food that the woman prepared. "You set a beautiful TABLE" is an expression meaning "You prepare excellent FOOD." The table is closely connected to the food, since the food sits on the table.

Biblical speakers and writers use metonymy. Here is one example.
When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, the Bible says: "He took a CUP, and after giving thanks he said, 'Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the FRUIT OF THE VINE until the kingdom of God comes.' Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it an gave it to them saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' And he did the same with the CUP after supper, saying, 'This CUP that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'" (Luke 22:17-20).

Similarly, Paul says: "For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the CUP also, after supper, saying, 'This CUP is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this CUP, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

But I ask you, did Jesus and his followers drink a CUP or CUPS? Do Christians today drink CUPS? Of course not. Rather, we drink the CONTENTS in the cup, NOT the CONTAINER, the CUP. A cup and its contents are intimately related, but literally they are not the same.

The language here is called METONYMY. As an aside, once a person realizes this linguistic phrase, the age old "issue" about drinking from ONE CUP or MANY is irrelevant. What is important is the CONTENT=the wine, the fruit of the vine, NOT the CONTAINER. Jesus' blood is not like a "cup" or a "container," but like the flowing wine or fruit of the vine in the cup or container.

This is academic. Sorry. This will bore some of YOU. What are YOUR thoughts? Share YOUR ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.


  • Amazing how often ignoring literary devices hides meanings and messages.
    Passing over euphemisms when exploring scripture is a pet peeve of mine

    By Blogger shannon, at 11:38 AM  

  • Just curious. Did my response to this post re euphemisms come through?

    By Blogger shannon, at 10:18 AM  

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