As the season of Easter approaches, did you ever think of the meal that was served at the Last Supper? Did the table really look like the famous DaVinci painting?

From my understanding, there would have been a table but no chairs. The custom then and as now in some parts of the world is that the table would be low to the ground and the diners would recline on pillows. There were no forks, only knives. Bread was broken by the host. It would have been an insult to cut the bread. Bread signified life and to cut it would be to cut life. Breaking bread was a sign of fellowship and friendship. One broke bread and then shared the meal with friends. You did not break bread with your enemies. You did not share a meal except with friends and family.

The dishes used at the Last Supper were probably not made of metal or glass. The Holy Grail was not an ornate jewel studded golden goblet. The communal cup used was made probably from humble clay. Jesus and his followers were not wealthy and they were certainly not Roman. Dishes were shared and most likely looked similar to the ones pictured here. Bowls were used for more liquid dishes such as a stew. Cups were communal and passed around. The plates had a small rim so that the food could easily be picked up by someone dipping bread. These dishes pictured are replicas of those found in an Essenes settlement, the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls from 2000 years ago.

Seating arrangements mattered greatly. Jesus was the host. The first seat on the left and the first on the right at the table were positions saved for servants. Therefore, the two servants of the meal would have been John and Peter. We know that John leaned on Jesus, so John would have been on the left hand of Jesus and Peter on the right. The second position from the left would have been where the host was seated. Next would have been the guest of honor. In this case, it was Judas.

The accounts of Jesus were written almost 2000 years ago. How people ate, interacted, their customs and greetings were not documented. There was no need as they were familiar to everyone. Just as today, when we write or tell a story, there is the assumption that the reader is familiar with the customs and practices of everyday life in our country. For instance, when telling a story about what happened at Thanksgiving, the author probably wouldn’t talk about the table setting, or the stuffing. We know how the table would be set and where the forks would go. Today, our customs are different from 2000 years before. Understanding the way things were then, gives us better understanding of the Bible today.

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1 Comment on The Last Supper Dining Customs

  1. Lenel Strowder says:

    Thank you so much. I have two questions if you will please explain the custom. 1) Was there wine served at the passover meal? Understanding that the Israelites left in haste; would they have had wine or water to drink? Also, wasn’t there a order not to have yeast in their borders? Was wine considered to have had yeast? What was in the bowls that they dipped bread in? Was it a stewed fruit sauce, or wine?

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