Barry Newman's Blog

September 29, 2009

Christ Centred Communion (part VIII)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 10:22 pm

Formal meals in the Graeco-Roman World

In and before New Testament times, it was common in the Graeco-Roman world for “clubs”, organisations, friends, relatives, business associates or simply like-minded people to come together to have a dinner, a semi-formal or formal meal.  One custom, though not followed all the time, was that though the host might supply some basics such as bread and wine, guests would bring their own meals and eat what they brought without sharing. There were two parts to these meals.  The first involved eating the main course or courses with bread, sometimes used like a piece of cutlery, as a normal component. The second involved a lengthy session of wine drinking as well as various forms of entertainment or “around the table” discussion.  Wine was a very important component of these meals and was commonly involved in the introduction to the main course. 

Even the nature of Jewish Passover meals as well as ordinary formal or semi-formal Jewish meals may have been affected by some of these customs as they developed.  The wine drinking component of Passover meals was not proscribed by the Law of Moses and its practice may have had its origin in the Greek culture in which the Jews found themselves. The extended teaching that Jesus gave his disciples detailed in John’s Gospel (chapter 13 and following) may also have been a reflection of the “Table Talk” common in the Graeco-Roman meal.  There were of course some considerable and very important differences between a Jewish meal and a Gentile meal.  Gentile meals were characterised by toasts to various gods, such as Zeus, who was referred to as “Saviour,” and Dionysus, the god of wine, who was referred to as the “good god”.  By contrast, it was said that a proper Jewish meal would make some reference to the Law of God, the one and only God, with thanksgivings in the form of blessings being given to him.


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