Barry Newman's Blog

April 17, 2012

A Table of the Lord (part IV)

The “table” in the New Testament

The word, “trapeza”, generally translated “table”, occurs 14 times in the New Testament[1].  There is one reference to the table for “the bread of the presence” of the Old Testament (Hebrews 9: 2) with almost all references referring to a table as used for food.  Ignoring the text under discussion, examples are: “He (Jesus) overturned the tables.” (Matthew 21: 12) [not tables associated with food], “The dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7: 28), “… longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.” (Luke 16: 21), “The hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.” (Luke 22: 21), “You may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” (Luke 22: 30), “… to wait on tables.” (Acts 6:2), “He laid a table.” (Acts 16: 34) and “May their table become a trap and a snare.” [a quote from Psalm 69: 22] (Romans 11: 9).

In terms of the senses in which “trapeza” is used, the picture is very similar to that provided by the Old Testament. Sometimes the reference is to a table as an object but on a few occasions, it is really the food on the table that is the prime focus. Waiting on tables and laying a table has the meal to be served in mind. It is not always a table used for food. There is also examples of a table being spoken of “belonging to someone” – the rich man in one case and the eschatological table of Jesus in his kingdom in another.

[1] Although I do not agree with some of what Goppelt, L. says, particularly when he refers to sacramental notions that he sees in some texts, he has an interesting article on “trapeza” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, volume viii, (eds. Kittel, G and Friedrich, G.) (trans. Bromiley, G.W.), Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1972, pp. 209 – 215.  It is well worth the read.


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