G. C. Brewer’s Review of “The Cup of the Lord”
Answered by J. D. Phillips - Number 2
“2. Goes to the Greek. The author of the tract says: “When Alexander Campbell wanted to know the truth about baptism, he went to the Greek, … and found ‘baptisma, immersion, submersion.’ When the cup question came up, we went to the Greek, and found the word ‘poteerion, a cup, a drinking vessel’.””
Yes, “Campbell went to the Greek” on baptism, and the sprinklers began to quake, for they saw that their footing was gone. We go to the Greek on the cup question, and “poteerion, a cup, a drinking vessel,” is so clearly defined that no reasonable person can fail to get the meaning of the word. And it makes the cups advocates quake as much as “immersion, submersion,” as the definition of baptisma, made the sprinklers quake. There is no footing in either word for the evolutions of the theological skater!
“Campbell went to the Greek lexicons because “baptize” and “baptism” are Greek words, and the only place to find them correctly defined and used is in the Greek lexicons and literature. But there was no need on earth to go into the Greek on the cup question. The word “poteerion” means in Greek exactly what “cup” means in English; and if there is any simpleton who does not know that a cup is a drinking vessel, he, could consult his dictionary and learn this. What is the advantage in saying “poteerion” instead of “cup”? O, it sounds learned and beguiles the ignorant!””
I go to the Greek on every subject that I investigate. “No Version is perfect. For all versions are the works of man, and no work of man is free from blemish. The divine Original alone is that” (Wordsworth, in the Introduction to “The Acts,” Greek New Testament with Notes).
Campbell did not “go to the Greek because ‘baptize’ and ‘baptism’ are Greek words.” Campbell knew that neither “baptize” nor “baptism” is a Greek word! They are Anglicized; and anglicize means “to make English” (Webster). And being English words, they are defined in English dictionaries. And the man who says they are not there defined correctly does not know the a, b, c, of language. Webster defines English words as their current meanings require. Through usage, the English word “baptism” has come to have three or more meanings, such as sprinkle, pour, etc., which is not true of the Greek word, baptisma, which means “immersion, submersion.” From the very nature of the word it cannot mean to sprinkle or pour in Greek, its root being bapto, meaning “to dip.” Likewise, through usage, the English word “cup” has come to have five or more meanings which the Greek word, poteerion, rendered “cup” in the New Testament, does not have: the Greek word means only “a cup, a drinking vessel.” Even though poteerion is sometimes used both metaphorically (as in Matthew 26:39) and metonymically (as in 1 Corinthians 10:21), the definition is “a cup, a drinking vessel.” Both “baptism” and “cup” have meanings in English not inherent in baptisma and poteerion. The only way, then, to be infallibly safe is to go to the Greek Original, as Campbell and Carson did on baptisma, and as we are doing on poteerion. It neither “sounds learned” nor “beguiles” us for our brother to expose his ignorance as he has in his review.
“But the author of the tract thinks by showing that, the word is “poteerion, a cup, a drinking vessel,” he will have proved that the Lord took a literal vessel and blessed it, etc. Thus, he thinks to escape the claim that the word “cup”’ is used in a figurative sense. But no one who has intelligence enough to go unincarcerated would say that the “fruit of the vine” was not contained in a literal cup or vessel, and that our Lord did not take up this literal cup full of wine when he instituted the memorial. There could be no dispute there between sane people.
Yes, I proved that “the Lord took a literal vessel” filled with “the fruit of the vine” and “blessed it,” or “blessed” God for it, and said, “This cup is (estin, a copula of symbolical relation) the New Testament in My blood” (Luke 22:20). And “the word cup” is not “used in a figurative sense,” in Matthew 26:27, Mark 14:23, and Luke 22:20. Thayer says it is used literally, as “this cup containing wine” (Lexicon, p. 15).”
By going to the Greek, I established the fact that the word “cup” in the New Testament always bears the same meaning - and this in opposition to those who teach that - “The word ‘cup’ as used by Christ in Matthew 26:27 and ‘the fruit of the vine’ are one and the same.” This is the proposition as written, signed, and affirmed by J. N. Cowan, in The Cowan-Harper Debate. Alva Johnson affirmed in debate with H. C. Harper, and later with me, that - “The ‘fruit of the vine’ is ‘the cup of the Lord’.” True, indeed, the contention was not “sane” (as Brewer admits), but we were called upon to meet it: and did meet it.
“Furthermore, any person who knows anything at all about any language knows that you cannot tell whether or not a word is figurative any better from the Greek than from the English. It is not a different word when it is literal and when it is figurative. The English word “cup” is used in both a literal and a figurative sense. Likewise, the Greek word “poteerion” is used in both a literal and figurative sense. Yet every time Phillips quotes, “He took the cup,” he places after the word “cup” the parenthetical expression, “poteerion, a cup, a drinking vessel.” He hopes thus to make the reader think: that because the word is “poteerion” here, it was a literal vessel, singular in number. But when, he quotes, “Drink the cup of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 10:21), which he admits is a metonymy, he fails to insert his Greek word with its definition after the word “cup!” Why did he do this? Does he not want his readers to know that the word is “poteerion” in this place? Why did he not quote it after his usual style thus: “Drink the cup (poteerion, a cup, a drinking vessel) of the Lord”? In other words, “drink the drinking vessel of the Lord”! O, but he says it is figurative here. Certainly, but it is “poteerion, a cup, a drinking vessel.” Surely any reader can see that there is no sense in giving the Greek word, as it is the same whether used literally or figuratively. Therefore, all his Greek goes for naught.”
Why should I keep inserting the word, poteerion, after I had established the fact that the word “cup” in the English versions is always from poteerion, and that it is the same word, whether used literally or figuratively, in the Original? - and this in opposition to those who say, with J. N. Cowan, “I know the word ‘cup’ is often used to name a literal, material, vessel; but I also know that it never means that when used in connection with the Lord’s supper.”
But to show Bro. Brewer that I am not afraid to insert the word where he correctly says I did not, I here do so: “Ye cannot drink the cup (poteerion, a cup, a drinking vessel) of the Lord and the cup (poteerion) of devils” (1 Corinthians 10:21). We “drink the cup” - drink the drinking vessel - “of the Lord” by drinking “what is in the cup” (Thayer). “By drinking what it contains, and in no other way” (N. L. Clark, in Clark-Harper Debate). And when we are told to “drink the cup,’’ poteerion is used and it connotes “a literal vessel, singular in number,” even though, it is used “by metonymy of the container for the thing contained,” as Thayer points out. See his Lexicon, p. 533. And had the Corinthians been accustomed to the use of cups, and Paul agreed with the practice, he would have used the plural form of poteerion, and the translation would have read cups. But the fact that Paul uses poteerion, in the singular, shows that they used one cup.
Thayer’s Lexicon points out the passages in which poteerion is used literally as “the vessel out of which one drinks”; then the ones in which it is used “by metonymy of the container for the contained”; then the ones in which the writers of the N. T. followed the Hebrew idiom and used it in the metaphorical sense to denote the Savior’s sufferings and death. See Thayer, p. 533. See also Robinson’s Lexicon, under poteerion.
I appealed to the living scholars, in such institutions of learning as Yale, Harvard, and Chicago Universities, and quoted them by the dozens, in the tract. Instead of giving his readers what they said, he distorted it and met the distortion! He built a straw man, and knocked the filling out of it! And if you will read the tract under review, you will soon see why he did not let you see what I said, and what the scholars said, and you will see that the Greek does not go “for naught”!
“3. Quotes the Scholars. The author of the tract quotes a great number of scholars to sustain his contention, but it is doubtful if these scholars could have even conceived of what his contention is. They answered his questions in regard to the Greek noun, pronoun, and its antecedent, etc. What those scholars say is not questioned by any one, and was not before he interrogated them. They only tell him that when the record says, “He took a cup,” it means he took up a literal vessel filled with the Passover wine. No one on earth ever doubted that. We could hardly suppose that our Lord took up the fruit of the vine and gave it to his disciples in his hands without any sort of vessel or container. But our author had to appeal to eminent scholars to prove that he did not!”
I did not want these scholars to “conceive what” my “contention is.” I wanted them to give impartial testimony in answer to my questions “in regard to the Greek noun, pronoun, antecedent, etc.” I wanted them to answer my questions on the meaning of the language, without any prejudice, and without any effort, on their part, to argue the question of how many cups should be used, in the communion.
“What these scholars say is not questioned by any one,” says Bro. Brewer. Reader, remember this! This is an admission that the Greek word, poteerion, means a drinking vessel. And yet, Bro. Brewer proceeds to call it just a “vessel,” “pitcher,” “vial,” “bowl,” “jug,” “pot,” or anything else that it is not! I certainly needed to go to the Greek text, or somewhere, for Bro. Brewer shows that he does not understand the English word “cup”! He admits the exclusive meaning of poteerion, even though he does want to evade the force of it by calling it “a vessel.” “He took a cup” (Matthew 26:27) does not mean “he took up a literal vessel.” A “vessel” is a generic term, and the Greek word is skeuos; a “cup” is a specific term, and the Greek word is poteerion. The definition of a word and the word are convertible terms. I dare him deny it. A “vial” is a vessel; likewise, a “jug,” a “bottle,” etc., almost ad finitum. You cannot give the meaning of Scripture that contains poteerion by giving “vessel” any more than you can give the meaning of Scripture that contains baptizo by giving “sprinkle.”
“His scholars tell him that the pronoun “this” - “touto” in the Greek - in the expression, “for this is my blood" (verse 28), has as its grammatical antecedent “the cup” - to poteerion - but that it by metonymy refers to the contents of the cup. Of course, any intelligent person who does not know a Greek letter would understand that. The English is perfectly plain. Read it: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this (cup) is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28.)”
Yes, the scholars back me in this interpretation. “This” - touto - is neuter gender, and it must, of necessity, refer to “cup” - poteerion - which is also neuter. But the reference is, my metonymy, to the contents of the “cup.” I went to the Greek scholars on this point because some say that the reference word “this” in “this is my blood” cannot refer to the “cup” that contains the “blood” and that, therefore, the “fruit of the vine” is “the cup.” I have met this several times in debate.
“Now, while it is perfectly obvious that Jesus took up a literal vessel containing the “fruit of the vine,” it is also just as obvious that the material vessel was only an incidental and had no signification whatever in the service. Only the contents of the cup had any meaning. Can any soul believe that Christ gave thanks for a literal, material vessel? Would he have thanked God for this cup had it been empty? Would he have said, “Take, drink,” if there had been nothing in the cup to drink? Could the expression, “This (cup) is my blood,” have alluded to an empty cup? Could “this” even by metonymy refer to an empty cup? Metonymy is the putting of the container for the thing contained; but if there was nothing contained in the cup, where is your metonymy? Of course, even Phillips does not claim that the cup was empty, but he puts the emphasis and the importance upon the material vessel, and I am only showing that the literal vessel - cup - had no meaning in the institution. If it did, then an empty vessel would have served as well, since it was the cup and not the thing in the cup that he gave thanks for and said “this” is my blood, etc.!”
“Only the contents of the cup had any meaning.” Who said so? Bro. Brewer. Is he inspired? No. For an inspired answer, go to Luke 22:20. Jesus says, “This cup is the New Testament.” “This cup” is from touto to poteerion - literally, “this the cup” - in Greek, and F. R. Gay, professor of Greek in Bethany College, says, “The demonstrative touto shows the reference to be to a definite, material, cup.” Robert H. Pfieffer says the language means that the literal cup, or drinking vessel, is a symbol of the New Testament. Thayer says on page 15 of his Lexicon that the meaning of Luke 22:20 is, “This cup containing wine, an emblem of blood, is rendered by the shedding of my blood, an emblem of the New Testament.” Bro. Brewer says, “What these scholars say is not questioned by any one, and was not before he interrogated them.” Very well, then. “The cup” - drinking vessel - has a meaning “in the institution”; it is a symbol of the New Testament. The wine in the cup cannot be a symbol of the New Testament, for it is a symbol of the blood of that Testament. Here are two great men: G. C. Brewer and Christ. They differ. Choose between them! With me it is “Speak, Lord; Thy servant heareth.”
No; he would not have thanked God for an empty cup, nor would the empty cup have represented His blood. Nor does wine apart from the cup represent His blood. Nor does an empty cup represent the New Testament. The wine must be in the cup for either to have any meaning.
“The cup - literal vessel - had no more meaning than did the plate, platter, or vessel upon which the bread or loaf was lying when Jesus took it and broke it. Did Jesus break the loaf and hand a piece in His bare hands to each of the disciples, or did He place a portion upon each disciple’s individual plate? Which way was it done?
Mark you, there is no “it” in the Greek or in the Revised Version in reference either to the loaf or the cup. This is where Phillips blunders seriously. It does not say that Jesus blessed the loaf and gave “it” - the loaf - to His disciples. It says He gave to the disciples, which means, of course, that He gave them of the loaf and told them to eat of the loaf. He gave them each a portion of the loaf. Likewise, He gave thanks for the cup “and gave to them” (it does not say he gave it to them) and told them to drink of it. Drink of what? Of that which he gave to them, of course. He gave, to them the cup - that which they were to drink, and that which was his blood of the covenant poured out. He gave to them each a portion of the cup - the fruit of the vine - just as he gave each a portion of the loaf. He gave them that which they were to drink. Could they drink a vessel?”
There is nothing said about the loaf being on a “plate, platter, or vessel” of any kind. The loaf is what Christ said was His “body.” He broke the loaf, and gave it to them, and told them to break it, as He had done, for He said, “this do.” No mention is made of the manner in which He gave the loaf to them. Hence, we may put it on a platter or plate, if we so desire. No Scripture is violated if it is passed without being in a vessel.
But let us see Bro. Brewer pass the wine without a vessel to contain it! (There will be more said about the cup and its symbolism, later).
The Greek idiom does not require the expression of the pronoun for “it” after “He gave,” in Matthew 26:27, but it should be supplied to make the sense complete. Where is your translator who dares put a plural after “He gave”? As well try to find one who dares put in “sprinkling” for baptisma.
There is an “it” in the Greek where poteerion is used. For, “they all drank out of it” (Mark 14:23) in obeying the Savior’s command, “You must all drink out of it” (Matthew 26:27). And “it” here has, as its antecedent, the word “cup” just preceding; and hence “He gave it” - “the cup” - to them, this being the meaning of the Greek idiom. Most translations so read. And it is Bro. Brewer that “blunders seriously,” by ignoring the idiom.
He admits that poteerion always means “a cup, a drinking vessel”; then contradicts himself by saying, “He gave them the cup - that which they were to drink, and that which was His blood of the covenant.” True, He “gave to them the cup,” but “the cup” is not His blood: the “blood” was in “the cup.” What they were to drink was in “the cup.” And they drank “the cup” by drinking “what was in the cup” (Thayer). Sure, they could “drink a vessel” by “drinking what is in” the “vessel,” as Thayer points out.
Cruden says: “The master of the feast took a cup of wine in his hand, and solemnly blessed God for it, and for the mercy which was then acknowledged; and gave it to all the guests, of which everyone drank in turn”. See also “Hebrew Literature.”
J. D. Phillips
Coming Out in the Open
Some of our preaching brethren have been rather slow and reluctant about coming out in the open on some of the questions which have troubled congregations during the past few years, but we rejoice when brethren muster up enough courage to speak out and show their colors. No doubt there are a number of others who have been keeping quiet just as the ones we are about to let speak out. If so, come on out in the open, and let us know where you stand. Here is our hand, brethren; we welcome you into the fight for righteousness and primitive Christianity. We need you and you need us.
Here is the good news sent in by Bro. Gay:
Bro. E. J. Smith, of Crowell, Texas, writes under date of November 21,1932, that he has always been a one cup man, but has waited and prayed that the cups people would not cause any trouble. He says, “I have kept out of the fight on, that question, not that I feared anything, but I was in hopes that these brethren would cease to pervert the word of God and let the truth reign, but as it is very plain that they will grow worse and worse; I am ready to defend the truth on that subject as well as on baptism, and will do so without the least fear of defeat.” Bro. Smith is a good man and a good debater. He also states that he did not know there was such a paper as the O.P.A., until I sent him a copy. I feel that he will be a real co-worker with us.
Under date of Nov. 25, 1932, Bro. A. McFaden, of Winters, Texas, writes me: “Yes, Bro. Gay, I am with you on the cup; question and all other Bible truths. I do not like the way the brethren who favor two or more cups are acting about it. I am afraid for them. May God have mercy on them. Bro. J. H. Stewart gave, me two copies of the O.P.A.; the first I have seen. I like it fine. I shall make my reports through the paper, and do all I can for and through it; even though I cannot now subscribe for it.”
Bro. McFaden also is a good man and a good preacher, but he has not been preaching very long. He recently lost his little four-year-old girl, and is very sad.
He further writes, “I preached at Ballinger, Texas, last Lord’s day, the 20th inst., and the Lord willing, I shall preach here next Lord’s day. The church here is doing fine. When I came here last July, things looked bad. I preached seven nights, and four were baptized and three restored. The rest of the brethren then determined to do something for the Lord.”
Then while I was at Waco, I met old Bro. W. L. Long, who lives there. (J. D. Tant baptized him in 1887, and he began preaching that same year). He told me that his final conclusion was that the cups were no more authorized by the Bible than the organ or the S. S., or any of the other societies. He is old and feeble now, but is much help to the sound congregation, where he worships each Lord’s day.
Homer A. Gay