Another Banquet Held in Jesus’ Honor

22 Dec

from Google Images

Earlier and near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Luke tells us that Matthew (Levi) held a banquet in Jesus’ honor (Luke 5:29). Now, as Jesus begins his second year of public ministry, a second banquet is held in his honor. However, considering what has gone on up to this time in Jesus’ ministry, it is with some surprise that we find that a Pharisee had invited Jesus to eat with him, and Jesus accepted his invitation (Luke 7:36). Luke tells us this man’s name is Simon, and, as it turns out, he is the only Pharisee named in the Gospel narratives! It would seem then, at least on the surface, that this account may have some importance that isn’t apparent with a cursory read of Luke’s narrative. Moreover, there are hints in the text that tell us we probably should know who this Pharisee is, besides his name being Simon.[1]

“As was the case in nearly all Jewish homes of that time, when Jesus and his disciples sat down, they would have found the table already set with all the foods of the meal. In addition to the serving plates that held the food and the goblets for the wine, little else would have been on the table. Napkins were not yet in use and the fork had not yet been invented. Each guest would have brought his own knife for cutting meat, but most of the eating would have been done by hand. Because this made for sticky fingers, servants were available to offer bowls of water in which the guests could occasionally clean their fingers.

“Between the 1st and 3rd centuries, it was traditional in all homes to start with a simple vegetable soup. The contents of the second course, however, were determined largely by the economic status of the host. Because Jesus was an honored guest, the owner of the home in which this particular meal was served would have been sure to have prepared roast lamb, the most highly-valued of dishes. It was not traditional to serve a dessert course, but celebratory meals such as this came to an end after the guests ate the fresh fruit and nuts that had been put on the table for decorations.” [Jewish Virtual Library: Dining in the Holy Land – 2000 Years Ago]


from Google Images

If we were to consider the seating arrangement of the dinner held in Jesus honor in the first century AD, there would be many differences from what we might expect to find at a modern formal dinner. For example, Everyone probably reclined at the table, lying on a cushioned pad and leaning on their left forearm (cf. Amos 6:4). Consider that the disciple whom Jesus loved had his place to the right of Jesus. This is understood in that, as they reclined together, if the disciple wished to speak with Jesus in private, he would turn in such a manner that he leaned on Jesus’ breast to do so (John 13:25; 21:20). Only in a reclining position does this make sense.

If there were more than one table, there would be a table designated as the head table, and the host (in this case the Pharisee who invited Jesus) would have his place there. The guest of honor (in this case, Jesus; cf. Luke 14:7-10) would take his place to the right of the host (cf. Luke 20:42; Acts 2:33).[2] All other guests would be seated according to rank to the right and left of Jesus and Simon, the Pharisee.


[1] I hope to reasonably identify Simon the Pharisee in another blog. Of course, since neither Luke nor any of the other Gospel writers openly reveal his identity, such an attempt must be viewed as speculative. However, I hope to place his identity in the probable column rather than the mere possible column.

[2] Consider, for example: “…and after having offered up these prayers the elders sit down to meat, still observing the order in which they were previously arranged, for they do not look on those as elders who are advanced in years and very ancient, but in some cases they esteem those as very young men, if they have attached themselves to this sect only lately, but those whom they call elders are those who from their earliest infancy have grown up and arrived at maturity in the speculative portion of philosophy, which is the most beautiful and most divine part of it. (68) And” Philo: The Contemplative Life; 67.


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Posted by on December 22, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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