Bringing Back to Life: Laments and the Origin of the So-Called Words of Institution


  • Angela Standhartinger Philipps-Universität Marburg


Recent research into the origins of early Christian meals focuses on the social form of the Graeco-Roman banquets and symposium. What remains to be seen, however, is how the so-called “words of institution” transmitted by Paul to the community at Corinth functioned at some of those meals. In this paper I show that the tradition cited in 1 Corinthians 11:23–25 describes most likely a funerary banquet. Here food might be shared between the living and the dead while laments and dirges not only present the context of that meal—a passion story—but also enable an imagined reunion with the deceased so as to raise her or his voice and speak in her or his name. The paper shows how the performance of (funerary) meals might have functioned to those who believed in resurrection.

Author Biography

Angela Standhartinger, Philipps-Universität Marburg

Angela Standhartinger is professor of New Testament studies at Philipps-Universität Marburg (Germany). Her research focuses on Jewish Hellenistic literature, Paul and the deutero-Pauline letters, and meals in their Greco-Roman contexts. She has coedited “Eine gewöhnliche und harmlose Speise”? Von den Entwicklungen frühchristlicher Abendmahlstraditionen (Kohlhammer, 2008) and written several articles on the origin of the Eucharist and the cultural context of early Christian banqueting, including the Saturnalia, civic banquets and mass feedings, women’s roles in banquets and early Easter traditions, and meal discourses among early Christian apologists.





Section I: Memory, Mourning, and Returning to Life