From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

Communion (Gr. koinônia ). In EV [Note: English Version.] koinônia is tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘communion’ in only 3 passages (  1 Corinthians 10:16 ,   2 Corinthians 6:14;   2 Corinthians 13:14 ), while it is frequently rendered ‘ fellowship ’ (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] 12, RV [Note: Revised Version.] 15 times), and twice ‘contribution’ or ‘distribution’ (  Romans 15:26 ,   2 Corinthians 9:13 [RV [Note: Revised Version.] has ‘contrib.’ in both cases; AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘contrib.’ in the first passage, ‘distrib.’ in the second]). But it is ‘communion’ that brings us nearest to the original, and sets us in the path of the right interpretation of the word on every occasion when it is used in the NT.

Koinônia comes from an adj. which means ‘common,’ and, like ‘communion,’ its literal meaning is a common participation or sharing in anything. Similarly, in the NT the concrete noun koinônos is used of a partner in the ownership of a fishing-boat (  Luke 5:10 ); the verb koinônein of sharing something with another, whether by way of giving (  Romans 12:13 ,   Galatians 6:6 ) or of receiving (  Romans 15:27 ,   1 Timothy 5:22 ); and the adj. koinônikos (  1 Timothy 6:18 ) is rendered ‘willing to communicate.’

1. Koinônia meets us first in   Acts 2:42 , where RV [Note: Revised Version.] as well as AV [Note: Authorized Version.] obscures the meaning not only by using the word ‘fellowship,’ but by omitting the def. article. The verse ought to read, ‘And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and the communion , in the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ And the meaning of ‘communion’ in this case can hardly be doubtful. The reference evidently is to that ‘having all things common’ which is referred to immediately after (  Acts 2:44 f.), and the nature and extent of which St. Luke explains more fully at a later stage (  Acts 4:32 to   Acts 5:4 ). It appears that ‘the communion’ was the regular expression for that ‘community of goods’ which was so marked a feature of the Christianity of the first days, and which owed its origin not only to the unselfish enthusiasm of that Pentecostal period and the expectation of the Lord’s immediate return, but to the actual needs of the poorer Christians in Jerusalem, cut off from the means of self-support by the social ostracism attendant on excommunication from the synagogue (  John 9:22;   John 9:34;   John 12:42;   John 16:2 ).

2. The type of koinônia in Jerusalem described in   Acts 2:1-47 seems to have disappeared very soon, but its place was taken by an organized diakonia , a daily ‘ministration’ to the poor (6:1, 2). And when the Church spread into a larger world free from the hostile influences of the synagogue, those social conditions were absent which in Jerusalem had seemed to make it necessary that Christ’s followers should have all things common. But it was a special feature of St. Paul’s teaching that Christians everywhere were members one of another, sharers in each other’s wealth whether material or spiritual. And in particular he pressed constantly upon the wealthier Gentile churches the duty of taking part in the diakonia carried on in Jerusalem on behalf of the poor saints. In this connexion we find him in   2 Corinthians 8:4 using the striking expression ‘the koinônia of the diakonia [‘the communion of the ministration’] to the saints.’ The Christians of Corinth might have communion with their brethren in Jerusalem by imparting to them out of their own abundance. Hence, by a natural process in the development of speech, the koinônia , from meaning a common participation, came to be applied to the gifts which enabled that participation to be realized. In   Romans 15:26 and   2 Corinthians 9:13 , accordingly, the word is properly enough rendered ‘contribution.’ And yet in the Apostolic Church it could never be forgotten that a contribution or collection for the poor brethren was a form of Christian communion.

3. From the first, however, ‘communion’ undoubtedly had a larger and deeper sense than those technical ones on which we have been dwelling. It was out of the consciousness of a common participation in certain great spiritual blessings that Christians were impelled to manifest their partnership in these specific ways. According to St. Paul’s teaching, those who believed in Christ enjoyed a common participation in Christ Himself which bound them to one another in a holy unity (  1 Corinthians 1:9 , cf.   1 Corinthians 1:10 ff.). In the great central rite of their faith this common participation in Christ, and above all in His death and its fruits, was visibly set forth: the cup of blessing was a communion of the blood of Christ; the broken bread a communion of the body of Christ (  1 Corinthians 10:16 ). Flowing again from this common participation in Christ there was a common participation in the Holy Spirit, for it is from the love of God as manifested in the grace of Christ that there results that ‘communion of the Holy Ghost’ which is the strongest bond of unity and peace ( 2Co 13:14; cf.   2 Corinthians 13:11 ,   Philippians 2:1 f.). Thus the communion of the Christian Church came to mean a fund of spiritual privilege which was common to all the members but also peculiar to them, so that the admission of a man to the communion or his exclusion from it was his admission to, or exclusion from, the Church of Christ itself. When the Jerusalem Apostles gave ‘the right hands of communion’ to Paul and Barnabas (  Galatians 2:9 ), that was a symbolic recognition on their part that these missionaries to the uncircumcision were true disciples and Apostles of Christ, sharers with themselves in all the blessings of the Christian faith.

4. We have seen that in its root-meaning koinônia is a partnership either in giving or in receiving. Hence it was applied to Christian duties and obligations as well as to Christian privileges. The right hands of communion given to Paul and Barnabas were not only a recognition of grace received in common, but mutual pledges of an Apostolic service to the circumcision on the one hand and the heathen on the other (  Galatians 2:9 ). St. Paul thanks God for the ‘communion’ of the Philippians in the furtherance of the gospel (  Philippians 1:5 ), and prays on behalf of Philemon that the ‘communion’ of his faith may become effectual (  Philippians 1:6 ), i.e. that the Christian sympathies and charities inspired by his faith may come into full operation. It is the same use of koinônia that we find in   Hebrews 13:16 , where the proper rendering is ‘forget not the welldoing and the communion.’ Here also the communion means the acts of charity that spring from Christian faith, with a special reference perhaps to the technical sense of koinônia referred to above, as a sharing of one’s material wealth with the poorer brethren.

5. In all the foregoing passages the koinônia seems to denote a mutual sharing, whether in privilege or in duty, of Christians with one another. But there are some cases where the communion evidently denotes a more exalted partnership, the partnership of a Christian with Christ or with God. This is what meets us when St. Paul speaks in   Philippians 3:10 of the communion of Christ’s sufferings. He means a drinking of the cup of which Christ drank (cf.   Matthew 20:22 f.), a moral partnership with the Redeemer in His pains and tears (cf.   Romans 8:17 ). But it is St. John who brings this higher koinônia before us in the most absolute way when he writes, ‘Our communion is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (  1 John 1:3 , cf.   1 John 1:6 ), and makes our communion one with another depend upon this previous communion with God Himself (  1 John 1:7 , cf.   1 John 1:6 ). Yet, though the koinônia or communion is now raised to a higher power, it has still the same meaning as before. It is a mutual sharing, a reciprocal giving and receiving. And in his Gospel St. John sets the law of this communion clearly before us when he records the words of the Lord Himself, ‘Ablde in me, and I in you’ (  John 15:4 ). The communion of the human and the Divine is a mutual activity, which may be summed up in the two words grace and faith . For grace is the spontaneous and unstinted Divine giving as revealed and mediated by Jesus Christ, while faith in its ideal form is the action of a soul which, receiving the Divine grace, surrenders itself without any reserve unto the Lord.

J. C. Lambert.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

The Greek word κοινωνία has a wider scope (see Fellowship) than the English word ‘communion,’ which the English Versionuses particularly in regard to the Lord’s Supper ( 1 Corinthians 10:16). St. Paul’s expression is somewhat ambiguous. In what way may the cup and the bread be said to be a communion? They may either be a symbol for communion or may constitute a communion by sacramental influence. What does the blood of Christ mean? Is it the blood which was shed at His death, or does it signify the death itself or its effects? Or does St. Paul perhaps think of the blood as some transfigured heavenly substance? And what does the body of Christ mean? Is it the material body, which Jesus wore on earth, and which hung on the cross, or the immaterial body of the heavenly Lord? Or, again, is it the spiritual body, whose head is Christ, i.e. the Church? And lastly, what does communion of the blood and of the body mean? Is it communion with, i.e. partaking of, the blood and the body, or is it a communion whose symbol, and medium are the blood and the body? In former times all attempts at interpretation distinguished sharply between those various meanings; nowadays there is a tendency towards accepting the different views as being present at the same time in the author’s mind and in the mind of his first readers, not as entirely separate ideas, but all together in fluctuating transition. Grammar and vocabulary are not decisive in such a case. We have to start from the general view of communion which early Christianity held. In this the particular meaning of communion in regard to the Lord’s Supper will be included.

There can be no doubt but that early Christianity had a double conception of fellowship: all members of the Church were in close fellowship one with the other, and at the same time each and all of them were in fellowship with the heavenly Lord. The former conception was the more prominent; but the latter no doubt was the basis of faith. Now in the Lord’s Supper we find both these ideas present. St. Paul complains of the divisions at Corinth ( 1 Corinthians 11:18): the members of the Church do not share their meal in a brotherly way, nor do they wait for one another ( i.e. probably for the slaves who could not be present early). Here we have the purely social and moral idea. But St. Paul, in speaking of ‘the Lord’s Supper’ ( 1 Corinthians 11:20), indicates another point of view, which may be called the religious and sacramental conception: the Lard’s Supper is not only a supper held at the Lord’s command, or a supper held in honour of the Lord (cf.  1 Corinthians 11:23;  1 Corinthians 11:28), but it is also a supper in communion with the Lord, where the Lord is present, participating as the Host. In this way the Lord’s Supper is not only the expression of an existing communion with Him, but it realizes this communion every time it is held. Now the question is: Is it the common supper which constitutes the communion, or are we to think of the particular elements, bread and wine, as producing the communion? We shall try to find an answer by noting some analogies from the comparative history of religions.

W. Robertson Smith started the theory that the origin of all sacrifice lies in the idea of a sacramental communion between the members of a tribe and the tribal deity, which is realized by the common eating of the flesh of the sacrifice and the drinking of its blood. The theory as a complete explanation is inadequate, but we may admit sacramental communion in this sense as one of the different views underlying the practice of sacrifice. In ancient Israel the so-called peace-offering may be taken as illustrating this view. In later Judaism, however, this rite held but a small place, and Rabbinical transcendentalism would not allow any thought of sacramental communion with God the Most High. To adduce analogies taken from primitive culture is of no value. According to Dieterich, primitive man had the idea that, by partaking of the flesh of any sacrificial animal offered to a god, he was partaking of the god himself, and thus entering into sacramental communion with him. This theory has not been proved, and in any case it is beside the point here. We find better analogies in the Hellenism of the Apostolic Age, where we may distinguish two sets of parallels. ( a ) In the Mysteries certain sacred foods and drinks were used to bring man into communion with the god; ( b ) on the other hand, many clubs held an annual or monthly supper, which generally took place in a temple, and was at any rate accompanied by religious ceremonies which were to constitute a communion between the members and the god or hero (very often the founder of the club) in whose honour the supper was given. So we have two conceptions of communion: one mystical, individual, magical; the other moral, social, spiritual. In the former, particular food is supposed to bring the partaker into communion with the god physically (or rather hyper-physically), to transfer the essence and virtues of the god into the man and so to make him god (deify him); in the latter, it is the community of the meal which unites all partakers to one another and to the hero in the same sense as marriage or friendship unites distinct personalities.

The evidence of these parallels brings the early Christian conception of the Lord’s Supper into close affinity with the communion of the club suppers, which had their analogy in suppers held in the Jewish synagogues of the Hellenistic Dispersion. The Mysteries did not influence Christian thought before the 2nd century. St. Paul, it is true, starts the idea of an unio mystica between the individual Christian and Christ ( Galatians 2:20); this idea is prevalent in his doctrine of baptism ( Romans 6:4,  Colossians 2:12); but his predominant line of thought is the other view, which regards the two personalities as apart from each other, and may be described as the idea of ‘fellowship.’ The same may be said about St. John’s view, in spite of all mystical appearances.

Now, when we turn to  1 Corinthians 10:16 again, we see clearly that it is not the bread and the wine that constitute sacramental communion by themselves; nor is communion the partaking of Christ’s material body and blood. Bread and wine in relation to body and blood were given by tradition, but, as far as performing a sacramental communion is concerned, they represent only the common meal, which brings men into communion with the Lord, who through His death entered upon a heavenly existence. From this conception of the transfigured body it is easy to pass to the other one of a spiritual body whose members are the partakers ( 1 Corinthians 10:17).

This interpretation is further supported by the comparison, made by St. Paul himself, of Jewish and Gentile sacrifices. When he says that the Jews by eating the sacrifices have communion with the altar, he means spiritual communion with God whose representative is the altar (note that the phrase ‘communion with God’ is avoided-a true mark of Rabbinism); and when he says that to partake of a supper connected with a heathen sacrifice brings men into communion with demons, he does not accept the popular idea that the food itself was quasi-infected by demonic influence (he declares formally that to eat such flesh unconsciously does not harm a Christian); but he says; ‘ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils: ye cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils,’ because partaking of the table constitutes a spiritual and moral communion which is exclusive in its effect. See Eucharist.

Literature.-W. Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia , new ed., 1903, RS [Note: S Religion of the Semites (W. Robertson Smith).]2, 1894; A. Dieterich, Eine Mithrasliturgie , 1903; E. Reuterskiöld, Die Entstehung der Speisesacramente ( Religionswissenschaftliche Bibliothek , 1912); L. R. Farnell, ‘Religious and Social Aspects of the Cult of Ancestors and Heroes,’ in HJ [Note: J Hibbert Journal.]vii. [1909] 415-435. For memorial suppers, see inscriptions collected by H. Lietzmann, Handbuch zum NT , iii. [1907] 160ff.; E. Lucius, Die Anfänge des Heiligenkults , 1904. For Jewish suppers in synagogues, see E. Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).]4 iii. [1909] 143; O. Schmitz, Die Opferanschauung des späteren Judentums , 1910; W. Heitmüller, Taufe und Abendmahl bei Paulus , 1903; E. v. Dobschütz, ‘Sacrament und Symbol im Urchristentum,’ in SK [Note: K Studien und Kritiken.], 1905, pp. 1-40; F. Dibelius, Das Abendmahl , 1911. Cf. the Commentaries on 1 Cor. by L. I. Rückert (1836), C. F. G. Heinrici (1880), T. C. Edwards (21885), P. W. Schmiedel (1891), H. Lietzmann (1907), P. Bachmann (190521910), J. Weiss (in Meyer9, 1910).

E. Von Dobschütz.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

A — 1: Κοινωνία (Strong'S #2842 — Noun Feminine — koinonia — koy-nohn-ee'-ah )

"a having in common (koinos), partnership, fellowship" (see Communicate denotes (a) the share which one has in anything, a participation, fellowship recognized and enjoyed; thus it is used of the common experiences and interests of Christian men,  Acts 2:42;  Galatians 2:9; of participation in the knowledge of the Son of God,  1—Corinthians 1:9; of sharing the realization of the effects of the Blood (i.e., the Death) of Christ and the Body of Christ, as set forth by the emblems in the Lord's Supper,  1—Corinthians 10:16; of participation in what is derived from the Holy Spirit,  2—Corinthians 13:14 (RV, "communion");   Philippians 2:1; of participation in the sufferings of Christ,  Philippians 3:10; of sharing in the resurrection life possessed in Christ, and so of fellowship with the Father and the Son,  1—John 1:3,6,7; negatively, of the impossibility of "communion" between light and darkness,  2—Corinthians 6:14; (b) fellowship manifested in acts, the practical effects of fellowship with God, wrought by the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers as the outcome of faith,  Philemon 1:6 , and finding expression in joint ministration to the needy,  Romans 15:26;  2—Corinthians 8:4;  9:13;  Hebrews 13:16 , and in the furtherance of the Gospel by gifts,  Philippians 1:5 . See Communication , Contribution , Distribution , Fellowship.

B — 1: Κοινωνός (Strong'S #2844 — Noun Masculine — koinonos — koy-no-nos' )

"having in common," is rendered "have communion with (the altar)," --the altar standing by metonymy for that which is associated with it -- in  1—Corinthians 10:18 , RV (for AV, "are partakers of"), and in  1—Corinthians 10:20 , for AV, "have fellowship with (demons)." See Companion.

King James Dictionary [4]


1. Fellowship intercourse between two persons or more interchange of transactions, or offices a state of giving and receiving agreement concord.

We are naturally led to seek communion and fellowship with other.

What communion hath light with darkness?  2 Corinthians 6 .

2. Mutual intercourse or union in religious worship, or in doctrine and discipline.

The Protestant churches have no communion with the Romish church.

3. The body of Christians who have one common faith and discipline. The three grand communions into which the Christian church is divided, are those of the Greek, the Romish and the Protestant churches. 4. The act of communicating the sacrament of the Eucharist the celebration of the Lords supper the participation of the blessed sacrament. The fourth council of Lateran decrees that every believer shall receive the communion at least at Easter. 5. Union of professing Christians in a particular church as, members in full communion.

Communion-service, in the liturgy of the Episcopal church, is the office for the administration of the holy sacrament.

Webster's Dictionary [5]

(1): (n.) A body of Christians having one common faith and discipline; as, the Presbyterian communion.

(2): (n.) Intercourse between two or more persons; esp., intimate association and intercourse implying sympathy and confidence; interchange of thoughts, purposes, etc.; agreement; fellowship; as, the communion of saints.

(3): (n.) The act of sharing; community; participation.

(4): (n.) The sacrament of the eucharist; the celebration of the Lord's supper; the act of partaking of the sacrament; as, to go to communion; to partake of the communion.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

In simple terms, ‘communion’ means a sharing together in something that people hold in common. In present-day language, ‘fellowship’ is the word usually used to indicate communion ( Acts 2:42; for further discussion see Fellowship ).

The particular act of fellowship with Christ where Christians share together in a token or symbolic ‘meal’ of bread and wine is commonly called Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper ( 1 Corinthians 10:16-17). (For further discussion see Lord’S Supper )

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [7]

in a religious sense, refers chiefly to the admission of persons to the Lord's Supper. This is said to be open, when all are admitted who apply, as in the Church of England; to be strict, when confined to the members of a single society, or, at least, to members of the same denomination; and it is mixed, when persons are admitted from societies of different denominations, on the profession of their faith, and evidence of their piety. The principal difficulty on this point arises between the strict Baptists and Paedo-Baptists.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Genesis 18:17-33 Exodus 33:9-11 Numbers 12:7,8 John 14:23 2 Corinthians 13:14 Philippians 2:1 Ephesians 4:1-6 1 Corinthians 10:16,17

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [9]

See Fellowship; The Lord'S Supper

Holman Bible Dictionary [10]

koinonia FellowshipLord'S Supper

Morrish Bible Dictionary [11]


Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

( Κοινωνία , A Sharing ), in ordinary terms, an association or agreement when several persons join and partake together of one thing; hence its application to the celebration of the Lord's Supper as an act of fellowship among Christians ( 1 Corinthians 10:16); and it is to this act of participation or fellowship that the word "communion," in the religious sense, is now chiefly applied in the English language. In  2 Corinthians 6:14, it takes the derived sense of concord. The "communion of the Holy Ghost" ( 2 Corinthians 13:14) signifies that spiritual intercourse with the divine Spirit which the child of God maintains by faith and prayer. The Greek term has also a secondary meaning of Bestowal in charity, in other passages, where it is rendered "contribution," "distribution," or "communication" [which see]. The word is elsewhere translated simply "fellowship" (q.v.). For a large number of treatises on this subject, see Volbeding, Index Dissertationum , p. 147 sq.

(1.) Communion ( Κοινωνία ) therefore "properly means the sharing something in common with another. Hence, in the Christian sense, it signifies the sharing divine converse or intercourse ( 1 John 1:3); and as this takes place, sacramentally, in the Lord's Supper, the word, in a third stage, signifies a joint participation in a spiritual sense of the body and blood of Christ, i.e. of his Spirit ( John 6:63) in that sacrament ( 1 Corinthians 10:16). Some explain the Κοινωνία in the Lord's Supper to be a communication of the body and blood of Christ,' as though these were given by the Church to the receiver, but the above account of the order in which the senses of the word have grown out of one another shows that such an interpretation is untenable. The Church has not, nor pretends to give, anything as from herself in that ordinance, but Christians come together to hold communion' with each other, and with their (once- sacrificed) Lord, of the benefits of whose death, sacramentally exhibited, they are in a special, though only spiritual, manner then partakers. Communion' ( Κοινωνία ) is that which is sought and spiritually partaken of by the receiver, not that which is actually conveyed by any person as the giver. Of the several names by which the Supper of the Lord has been at different times distinguished, that of the Holy Communion' is the one which the Church of England has adopted for her members. The Rubrics, Articles, and Canons almost invariably employ this designation." (See Eucharist); (See Lords Supper).

(2.) In a historical sense, communion denotes participation in the mysteries of the Christian religion, and, of course, Church fellowship, with all its rights and privileges. Hence the term "excommunication." In this sense the word is used also with reference to the admission of persons to the Lord's Supper. This is said to be open when all are admitted who apply; to be strict when confined to the members of a single society, or at least to members of the same denomination; and it is mixed when persons are admitted from societies of different denominations, on the profession of their faith and evidence of their piety, as is the case in Protestant churches generally. The principal difficulty on this point arises between the strict Baptists and Paedo-baptists.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Communion, a fellowship or agreement, when several persons join and partake together of one thing ; hence its application to the celebration of the Lord's supper as an act of fellowship among Christians and it is to this act of participation or fellowship that the word 'communion' is now restricted in the English language, the more familiar application of it having fallen into disease.