In 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul concludes the Eucharistic words of institution by saying, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Paul’s use of καταγγέλλετε (“you proclaim”) in this context is striking, raising questions around the purpose and mode of this proclamation.
First, New Testament writers place καταγγέλλω and εὐαγγελίζω in the same semantic range, using both terms to describe the act of evangelism to unbelievers for the purpose of conversion to faith in Jesus Christ. In this passage, however, the act of proclamation occurs among a community of believers. If those receiving the gospel message through Eucharistic proclamation are already part of the in-group, then what is the purpose of the proclamation?
Second, the cluster of αγγέλλω cognates employed elsewhere by Paul indicate that the mode of proclamation to be an oral message. Here, the explicitly stated mode of proclamation is communally-engaged embodied action rather than oral message: you (all) eat this bread and drink the cup. Most resolve the conceptual clash of the verbs eat, drink, and proclaim by centering the lexical meaning of καταγγέλλω. A majority of scholars represented by Fee, Witherington, Barrett, and Hofius understand the verb to mean oral proclamation of Christ’s death; a minority represented by Winter, Thiselton and Collins understand the verb to represent the entire practice of the meal, including speeches given, as proclamation. Gaventa and Smith disagree, viewing the embodied activity of eating and drinking as proclamation of the Lord’s death.
This paper finds a way forward in these discussions by elevating the body’s role in meaning-making, exploring Paul’s striking use of καταγγέλλω via Fauconnier and Turner’s cognitive linguistic theory of conceptual blending. Following Lakoff and Johnson, Fauconnier and Turner argue that human meaning-making is grounded in sensorimotor experience and imaginatively constructed through increasingly complex and rich conceptual metaphorical blends. Analysis of conceptual blends offers insight into the ways existing schemas are activated to create new, emergent meaning. Analyzing 1 Corinthians 11:26 as a complex conceptual blend provides awareness of the ways Paul’s word-choice activated culturally grounded schemas in the minds of the Corinthian listeners, such as Greek and Roman meal practices, the Lord’s Supper tradition, and oral gospel proclamation. Utilizing these tools, I argue that Paul’s striking use of καταγγέλλετε was aimed at correcting the Corinthian practice of the Lord’s Supper, evoking in his audience an emotional response in order to reframe the value and purpose of this communal meal engaged together.