International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(Most frequently, koc; four other words in one passage each; poterion): A vessel for drinking from, of a variety of material (gold, silver, earthenware), patterns (Est 1:7) and elaboration.
Figurative: By ordinary figure of speech, put sometimes for the contents of the cup, namely, for that which is drunk (Mt 26:39). In both Old Testament and New Testament applied figuratively to that which is portioned out, and of which one is to partake; most frequently used of what is sorrowful, as God's judgments, His wrath, afflictions, etc. (Ps 11:6; 75:8; Isa 51:17; Rev 14:10). In a similar sense, used by Christ concerning the sufferings endured by Him (Mt 26:39), and the calamities attending the confession of His name (Mt 20:23). In the Old Testament applied also to the blessedness and joy of the children of God, and the full provision made for their wants (Ps 16:5; 23:5; 116:13; compare Jer 16:7; Prov 31:6). All these passages refer not only to the experience of an allotted joy and sorrow, but to the fact that all others share in this experience. Within a community of those having the same interests or lot, each received his apportioned measure, just as at a feast, each cup is filled for the individual to drain at the same time that his fellow-guests are occupied in the same way.
The Holy Supper is called "the cup of the Lord" (1 Cor 10:21), since it is the Lord who makes the feast, and tenders the cup, just as "the cup of demons" with which it is contrasted, refers to what they offer and communicate. In 1 Cor 11:25, the cup is called "the new covenant in my blood," i.e. it is a pledge and seal and means of imparting the blessings of the new covenant (Heb 10:16 f)--a covenant established by the shedding of the blood of Christ. The use of the word "cup" for the sacrament shows how prominent was the part which the cup had in the Lord's Supper in apostolic times. Not only were all commanded to drink of the wine (Mt 26:27), but the very irregularities in the Corinthian church point to its universal use (1 Cor 11:27). Nor does the Roman church attempt to justify its withholding the cup from the laity (the communion in one form) upon conformity with apostolic practice, or upon direct Scriptural authority. This variation from the original institution is an outgrowth of the doctrines of transubstantiation and sacramental concomitance, of the attempt to transform the sacrament of the Eucharist into the sacrifice of the Mass, and of the wide separation between clergy and laity resulting from raising the ministry to the rank of a sacerdotal order. The practice was condemned by Popes Leo I (died 461) and Gelasius (died 496); but gained a firm hold in the 12th century, and was enacted into a church regulation by the Council of Constance in 1415.
See also BLESSING, CUP OF.
As to the use of cups for divination (Gen 44:5), the reference is to superstitious practice derived from the Gentiles. For various modes of divining what is unknown by the pouring of water into bowls, and making observations accordingly, see Geikie, Hours with the Bible, I, 492 f, and article DIVINATION.
H. E. Jacobs
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'CUP'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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