The Common Cup

“And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves…”

Lk. 22:17

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?”

1 Cor. 10:16

“After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood”

1 Cor. 11:25

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Order of Contents

Start Here
Articles
Latin
The History of
Quotes
Health Issues?

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Start Here

RPNA – ‘The Common Cup: Evaluated From A Biblical, Historical, and Medical Perspective’  2001  77 paragraphs, this is the RPNA’s position paper on the subject

This is an excellent summary of the Biblical data and arguments for using a common cup in the Lord’s Supper, in a brief 20 paragraphs.  Then 8 excerpts from reformation era books of discipline are given, as well as 8 more quotes from historic reformed writers on the subject.  29 paragraphs follow discussing health concerns.  Due to the alcohol in the wine, using a silver cup (both of which act as sanitizers) and wiping the mouth of the cup with a cloth, the common cup that Jesus (who is omniscient) personally instituted is not a significant health risk.

Note: The Reformed Presbytery of North America is commonly known as Still Waters Revival and they are Steelites.  While they have many good resources, their views on the Solemn League and Covenant and Separatism are Biblically wrong and are highly spiritually dangerous (along with the demeanor of much of their material, though not this article in particular).

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Articles

1600’s

The Westminster Standards on the Administration of the Lord’s Supper 

Specifically with regard to a Common Cup and Sitting at the Table

Burroughs, Jeremiah – pp. 263-5 of Sermon 13, Point 2 of Gospel Worship

Burroughs was a Westminster divine.

Gillespie on the Common Cup

Christ gave the disciples the Common Cup and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves…”  Some contemporary presbyterians argue that distributing the wine before hand into individual cups embodies this principle.  This is similar to the Independent argument at the Westminster Assembly.  Gillespie demonstrates that Christ commanding the dividing of the cup by the communicants themselves (and not the minister) is an act of communion amongst themselves, is participatory, and is not to be passive.

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Contemporary

Phillips, Bobby

‘The Cup of Blessing: an Analysis of 1 Cor. 10:16-17’  2014  15 pp.  with objections answered in a another 10 pp.

1 Cor. 10:16 speaks of the cup in the Lord’s Supper as singular.  Is there a spiritual principle that this passage is prescribing?  Yes.  The following verse (v. 17) can be translated as: “Because [it is] one loaf, we many are one body: for we are all partakers of that one loaf.”  This teaches that the numerical one-ness of the common loaf (and hence common cup as the loaf denotes the whole supper), symbolizes our unity together as the one body of Christ as we partake of Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross.  

This sense of the verses was common in the reformation age.  It was the translation of Martin Luther’s German Bible, the 1602 Spanish Bible, the 1637 Dutch Bible, the 1707 French Bible.  Today it is translation of the 1995 NASB and 2011 ESV Bibles.

Commentators that have interpreted 1 Cor. 10:17 as speaking of a common loaf, and by implication a common cup, include: John Calvin, The Genevan Bible Notes (1560), Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, John Gill and others.

Unfortunately in 2018 Mr. Phillips resolutely apostatized to Eastern Orthodoxy, though this does not affect the quality of this article.

‘Divide it Among Yourselves’  2014  14 paragraphs

Phillips addresses the question of whether serving prepared individual cups fulfills the command of Christ to “take this and divide it among yoursevles,” (Lk. 22:17).  Phillips carefully expounds and preserves the teaching of this verse and illustrates it from history at the Westminster Assembly.

Unfortunately in 2018 Mr. Phillips resolutely apostatized to Eastern Orthodoxy, though this does not affect the quality of this article.

Batzig, Nick – ‘A Cup of Cursing for a Cup of Blessing’  2009  6 paragraphs

Rev. Batzig gives a brief biblical theology of “the cup of blessing” in scripture. 

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Latin

Voet, Gisbert – ch. 4, ‘Of the Utensils or the Instruments, and Also of Certain Adjuncts and Circumstances’  in  Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1, book 2, tract 2, section 4, pp. 789 ff.  See especially Questions 1-3.

Vitringa, Sr., Campegius – Vol. 8, ‘Of the Lord’s Supper’ of The Doctrine of the Christian Religion, Summarily Described through Aphorisms  d. 1722

‘Of the Eucharistic Cup’  217-234
‘Of the Receiving of the Cup’  235-236
‘Of the Blessing of the Cup’  237-240
‘Of the Giving of the Cup’  241-242
‘Of the Command: ‘Drink’’  243-244

Vitringa, Sr. (1659-1722) was a professor in Franeker and a Hebraist.  “…Vitringa…  maintained a fairly centrist Reformed position…  Vitringa and De Moor serve as codifiers and bibliographers of the earlier tradition, the former from a federalist, the latter from a nonfederalist perspective.” – Dr. Richard Muller

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The History of the Common Cup

Burns, Thomas – Ch. 3, ‘The Communion Cup: its Different Forms’ & Appendix 6, ‘Hallmarks Found on Communion Cups’  in Old Scottish Communion Plate, pp. 180-434 & 635-6  1892

On the variations of the Scottish common cups which were used.

Phillips, Bobby – ‘Many Grapes in One Vessel: The Common Cup in Reformed History’  2014  43 pp.

Phillips demonstrates the widespread practice of using a Common Cup in the Lord’s Supper through the history of the Protestant Reformation, and how the reformers were continuing the theology of the early church in understanding the Common Cup to represent the unity of believers sharing in the one sacrifice of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16-17).  

The article includes numerous primary source materials translated for the first time into English from reformers such as Bucer, Farel, Olevianus, Laski, Daille, Lavatar, Weiss, and Huysinga, amongst others.

Unfortunately in 2018 Mr. Phillips resolutely apostatized to Eastern Orthodoxy, though this does not affect the quality of this article.

T., Brenda – ‘Who First Adopted Individual Cups as a Regular Communion Practice?’  2011  13 paragraphs with a timeline

The author traces the origin of using individual cups in the Lord’s Supper (this “novelty in communion service”) to the 1890’s in America’s mid-Atlantic and Midwest states.  

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Quotes

The First Book of Discipline [of Scotland]  1560

The Second Head, Of Sacraments

The Table of the Lord is then most rightly ministered when it approaches most nigh to Christ’s own action.  But plain it is, that at that Supper Christ Jesus sat with his disciples, and therefore do we judge that sitting at a table is most convenient to that holy action; that bread and wine ought to be there; that thanks ought to be given; distribution of the same made; and commandment given that the bread should be taken and eaten; and that all should likewise drink of the cup of wine, with declaration what both the one and the other is, we suppose no godly man will doubt.  For as touching the damnable error of the Papists, who can defraud the common people of the one part of that holy sacrament: to wit, of the cup of the Lord’s blood, we suppose their error to be so manifest that it needs no confutation.”

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Henry Bullinger  †1575

The Decades, the Fifth Decade, Sermon 7, p. 330, 418.  HT: Bobby Phillips.

“Furthermore, we take the bread into our hands, we likewise take the cup into our hands, because he said, ‘Take ye, eat ye; take ye, and divide it among you.’  Neither do we lay them aside or hide them, neither do we give them forthwith to others: but when we have received them, we eat and drink them, swallowing them down into our bodies; then afterward we do communicate and offer them to other.”  

“Here now therefore we ascribe none other thing to the minister but the ministry; that he be the president or chief dealer to recite the prayers in the celebration of the supper; and after the holy prelection and the pronouncing of the solemn words let him, after the example of Christ, begin to break the Lord’s bread and distribute the cup, and let him receive also the sacrament for himself, as the other faithful people do, as companion of the faith…”

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Samuel Rutherford

Due Right of Presbyteries, Chapter 4, Section 5, Question 3, pp. 236-7

The unity of faith, hearing one word of Faith [the doctrines of Christianity] preached (Eph. 4:5), makes a visible body in profession, even as the joint partaking of one bread and one cup in the Lord’s Supper makes one body, by obsignation or sealing (1 Cor. 10:16-17).

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Richard Vines

A Treatise on the Institution, right administration, and receiving of the Lord’s Supper, pp. 82-83

Vines was a Westminster divine.

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Health Issues?

The Center for Disease Control continues to maintain that there has been no known instance of the transmission of disease through the use of a common communion cup.  Another study has showed that 90% of all germs can be removed from the lip of a chalice simply by wiping with a clean cloth in between communicants.

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1500’s

The Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France – Ch. 12, ‘Of the Lord’s Supper’, Canon X  1559  in Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, vol. 1, p. xlviii

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1900’s

‘Risk of Infectious Disease Transmission from a Common Communion Cup’, P. Manangan RN, MPH Lynne M. Sehulster PhD, Linda Chiarello RN, MS, CIC, Dawn N.Simonds BS, William R.Jarvis MD; American Journal of Infection Control, Vol. 26, Issue 5, Oct., 1998, pp. 538-539

“Within the CDC, the consensus…  is that a theoretic risk of transmitting infectious diseases by using a common communion cup exists, but that the risk is so small that it is undetectable. The CDC has not been called on to investigate any episodes or outbreaks of infectious diseases that have been allegedly linked to the use of a common communion cup…

…a recent study of 681 persons found that people who receive Communion as often as daily are not at higher risk of infection compared with persons who do not receive communion or persons who do not attend Christian church services at all.”

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2000’s

RPNA – ‘Pt. 3, Medical Testimony’  in ‘The Common Cup: Evaluated From A Biblical, Historical, and Medical Perspective’  (2001)

‘Infections associated with religious rituals’, James Pellerin, Michael B. Edmond; International Journal of Infectious Diseases 17 (2013) e945–e948

“In 1967 Hobbs and colleagues performed experiments that concluded that…  wiping the rim with the linen cloth decreased bacterial counts by 90%…

Finally, in 1998 the CDC reported there had never been an outbreak of infection related to the communion cup.  They referenced a study from 1997 in which 681 participants who drank daily from a common cup were at no higher risk of infection than those who participated less frequently or who completely abstained from Christian services.

They concluded that it is probably safe to participate in services where a common cup is used, with the caveat that any member of the congregation with active respiratory illness or open labial or mouth sores abstain from partaking.”

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“He was to drink the cup of curse and condemnation…  He did not leave one bitter drop for us, but drank it to the dregs; and instead, He put into our hands the cup of salvation.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Related Pages

The Administration of the Lord’s Supper

Sitting at the Table