John Lightfoot: If He Drinks Wine Pure

Ver. 27: Τὸ ποτήριον· The cup.] Bread was to be here at this supper by divine institution: but how came the wine to be here? and how much? and of what sort?

I. “A tradition. It is necessary that a man should cheer up his wife and his children for the feast. But how doth he cheer them up? With wine.” The same things are citedn in the Babylonian Talmud: “The Rabbins deliver,” say they, “that a man is obliged to cheer up his wife and his domestics in the feast; as it is said, ‘And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast.’ (Deut. 16:14). But how are they cheered up? With wine. R. Judah saith, ‘Men are cheered up with something agreeable to them; women, with that which is agreeable to them.’ That which is agreeable to men to rejoice them is wine. But what is that which is agreeable to women to cheer them? Rabh Joseph saith, ‘Dyed garments in Babylon, and linen garments in the land of Israel.’ ”

II. Four cups of wine were to be drunk up by every one: הכל חייבין בד׳ כוסות “All are obliged to four cups, men, women, and children: R. Judah saith, ‘But what have children to do with wine?’ But they give them wheat and nuts,’ ” &c.
The Jerusalem Talmudists give the reason of the number, in the place before quoted, at full. Some, according to the number of the four words made use of in the history of the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, וְהוֹצֵאתִי וְהַצַּלְתִּי וְגָאַלְתִּי וְלָקַחְתִּי And I will bring forth, and I will deliver, and I will redeem, and I will take: some, according to the number of the repetition of the word כּוֹס cup, in Gen. 40:11, 13, which is four times; some, according to the number of the four monarchies; some, according to the number of the four cups of vengeance which God shall give to the nations to drink, Jer. 25:15; 51:7; Psalm 11:6; 75:8. And according to the number of the four cups which God shall give Israel to drink, Psalm 23:5; 16:5; 116:13. כוס ישועות אשא תריין the cup of two salvations.

III. The measure of these cups is thus determined: ארבעה כוסות שאמרו ישנן רביעית יין באיטלקּי “Rabbi Chaia saith, Four cups contain an Italian quart of wine.’ ” And more exactly in the same place: “How much is the measure of a cup? אצבעיים על אצבעיי׳ על רום אצבע ומחצה ושליש אצבע Two fingers square, and one finger and a half, and a third part of a finger deep.” The same words you have in the Babylonian Talmud at the place before quoted, only with this difference, that instead of שליש אצבע the third part of a finger, there is חומש אצבע the fifth part of a finger.

IV. מצוה לצאת ביין אדום It is commanded, that he should perform this office with red wine. So the Babylonian, צריך שיהא בו טעם ומראה “It is necessary that it should taste, and look like wine.” The Gloss, שיהא אדום that it should be red.

V. שתאן חי יצא If he drinks wine pure, and not mingled with water, he hath performed his duty; but commonly they mingled water with it: hence, when there is mention of wine in the rubric of the feasts, they always use the word מזגו they mingle him a cup. Concerning that mingling, both Talmudists dispute in the forecited chapter of the Passover: which see. “The Rabbins have a tradition. Over wine which hath not water mingled with it they do not say that blessing, ‘Blessed be He that created the fruit of the vine;’ but, ‘Blessed be he that created the fruit of the tree.’ ” The Gloss, יינם חזק מאד Their wine was very strong, and not fit to be drunk without water,” &c. The Gemarists a little after: “The wise agree with R. Eleazar, ‘That one ought not to bless over the cup of blessing till water be mingled with it.’ ” The mingling of water with every cup was requisite for health, and the avoiding of drunkenness. We have before taken notice of a story of Rabban Gamaliel, who found and confessed some disorder of mind, and unfitness for serious buisness, by having drunk off an Italian quart of wine. These things being thus premised, concerning the paschal wine, we now return to observe this cup of our Saviour.

After those things which used to be performed in the paschal supper, as is before related, these are moreover added by Maimonides: “Then he washeth his hands, ומברך ברכת המזון and blesseth the blessing of the meat” [that is, gives thanks after meat], “over the third cup of wine, and drinks it up.” That cup was commonly called כוס הברכה the cup of blessing; אכסא דברכתא in the Talmudic dialect. כוס של ברכה ברכת המזון The cup of blessing is when they give thanks after supper, saith the Gloss on Babyl. Berac. Where also in the text many things are mentioned of this cup: “Ten things are spoken of the cup of blessing. הרחה ושטיפה Washing and cleansing:” [that is, to wash the inside and outside, namely, that nothing should remain of the wine of the former cups]. חי “Let pure wine” be poured into the cup, and water mingled with it there. ומלא “Let it be full: עיטור the crowning;” that is, as the Gemara, “by the disciples.” While he is doing this, let the disciples stand about him in a crown or ring. עיטוף The veiling; that is, “as Rabh Papa, he veils himself and sits down; as R. Issai, he spreads a handkerchief on his head. נוטלו בשתי ידיו He takes up the cup in both hands, but puts it into his right hand; he lifts it from the table, fixeth his eyes upon it, &c. Some say he imparts it (as a gift) to his family.”

Which of these rites our Saviour made use of, we do not inquire; the cup certainly was the same with the “cup of blessing:” namely, when, according to the custom, after having eaten the farewell morsel of the lamb, there was now an end of supper, and thanks were to be given over the third cup after meat, he takes that cup, and after having returned thanks, as is probable, for the meat, both according to the custom, and his office, he instituted this for a cup of eucharist or thanksgiving; Τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας ὃ εὐλογοῦμεν, The cup of blessing which we bless, 1 Cor. 10:16. Hence it is that Luke and Paul say that he took the cup “after supper;” that is, that cup which closed up the supper.

It must not be passed by, that when he instituted the eucharistical cup, he said, “This is my blood of the new testament,” as Matthew and Mark: nay, as Luke and Paul, “This cup is the new testament in my blood.” Not only the seal of the covenant, but the sanction of the new covenant: the end of the Mosaical economy, and the confirming of a new one. The confirmation of the old covenant was by the blood of bulls and goats, Exod. 24, Heb. 9, because blood was still to be shed: the confirmation of the new was by a cup of wine; because, under the new testament, there was no further shedding of blood. As it is here said of the cup, “This cup is the new testament in my blood,” so it might be said of the cup of blood (Exod. 24:8), “That cup was the old testament in the blood of Christ.” There, all the articles of that covenant being read over, Moses sprinkled all the people with blood, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which God hath made with you:” and thus that old covenant or testimony was confirmed. In like manner, Christ having published all the articles of the new covenant, he takes the cup of wine, and gives them to drink, and saith, “This is the new testament in my blood:” and thus the new covenant is established.

There was, besides, a fourth cup, of which our author speaks also; “Then he mingled a fourth cup, and over it he finished the Hallel; and adds, moreover, the blessing of the hymn, ברכת השיר which is, ‘Let all thy works praise thee, O Lord,’ &c.; and saith, ‘Blessed is He that created the fruit of the vine;’ and afterward he tastes of nothing more that night,” &c. ‘Finisheth the Hallel;’ that is, he begins there where he left off before, to wit, at the beginning of Psalm 115, and goes on to the end of Psalm 118.

Whether Christ made use of this cup also, we do not dispute; it is certain he used the hymn, as the evangelist tells us, ὑμνήσαντες, when they had sung a hymn, at the thirtieth verse. We meet with the very same word הימנון in Midras Tillim.


Lightfoot, J. (2010). A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Matthew-1 Corinthians, Matthew-Mark (Vol. 2, pp. 350–353). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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