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CUP (Heb. kôs, Gr. potērion). A term used in a literal and figurative sense. Cups were of various forms and designs and were made of a variety of materials: gold, silver, earthenware, copper, bronze, etc. The cups of the Hebrews, whether metal or porcelain, often carried designs borrowed from Phoenicia and Egypt. All of Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold (1Kgs.10.21). The cups mentioned in the NT were doubtless of Roman style.

The cup also represents drunkenness and other illicit pleasures (Prov 23:31; Jer 51:7; Rev 17:4; 18:6). “Cup of consolation” (Jer 16:7; cf. Prov 31:6) stems from the oriental custom of sending to bereaved friends food and drink for their mourning feast.

The “cup of blessing” (1 Cor 10:16) is so named from the kōs habberāḵāh of the Jewish Passover. Paul refers to the communion cup, also called “the cup of the Lord” (v. 21), over which the blessing is said prior to the supper which commemorates the Lord’s death. The cup from ancient times signifies fellowship. Thus, when the believer takes the cup of the Lord, he enters into fellowship with Him. The “cup of demons” (1 Cor 10:21) mentioned in opposition to the cup of the Lord may be understood similarly. Paul states that one cannot have fellowship with Christ and with Satan’s forces at the same time. At heathen feasts the cup was sacred to the name of the deity in whose honor the feast was being held. At the communion service, the cup is sacred to the name of the Redeemer who instituted its practice (Matt 26:27; Mark 14:23f; Luke 22:20). See Lord's Supper.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A vessel for drinking from, of a variety of material (gold, silver, earthenware), patterns (Es 1:7) and elaboration.

The Holy Supper is called "the cup of the Lord" (1Co 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 1Co 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|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 (1Co 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.


As to the use of cups for divination (Ge 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.