Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Feast of the World's Redemption: Eucharistic Origins and Christian Mission

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Feast of the World's Redemption: Eucharistic Origins and Christian Mission

Article excerpt

The Feast of the World's Redemption: Eucharistic Origins and Christian Mission. By John Koenig. Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 2000. xvii + 301 pp. $25.00 (paper).

Historical fact and theological meaning are intertwined in this examination of "eucharistic meals" in the New Testament. John Koenig explores the origin of the distinctive meal of the church and the character of its consequent celebration, and bases suggestions about the meaning of the eucharist, then and now, on his historical conclusions.

The Last Supper of Jesus is central to Koenig's picture, and he argues that a meal close to the scriptural and traditional picture is well attested, and would have been in keeping with the prophetic dimension of Jesus' ministry. Yet the real point of Koenig's solid defense is meaning, more than fact. Koenig sees the Last Supper in strongly messianic terms, arguing that the distinctive language of Jesus' body and blood points to "a bodily sharing, through Jesus' messianic presidency, in God's covenantal redemption of the world" (p. 43).

The life of the earliest Christian communities further defines this expansive vision, as Koenig, in the second chapter, posits a subsequent series of meal gatherings characterized by "amazement, mutual support, and worship" (pp. 49, 56), where a common resurrection experience was formed and communicated. These meals "channel the promise and power of Gods imminent kingdom" (p. 85). The meal as common gathering point and distinctive worship event was the likely point of contact for converts (chapter 3), as well as a place of contention over questions such as Gentile inclusion; the emphasis on thanksgiving (eucharistia) itself suggests "an expansive frame of mind" (p. 102). In fact, Koenig pictures the curious and converts-to-be attending these feasts (pp. 84-58, 105), but not eating (p. 277, n. 8). Stronger perhaps is the case he makes for the paradoxical combination of strong boundaries and expansive worldview, sustained by communal meal practice.

Koenig surveys virtually the whole of the New Testament literature in search of witnesses to this sort of missionary eating in the fourth and fifth chapters, but his treatment of 1 Corinthians and the other letters seems crucial. …

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