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Table Fellowship and the Historical Jesus

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Chapter Summary

Table fellowship with Jesus was obviously a historical reality in Jesus' own day. But did Jesus use table fellowship as a mode of proclamation? A large number of scholars say he did, though they often disagree on how this was done and what message was communicated. Too often such conclusions have been drawn on the basis of inadequate data and untested presuppositions about the structure and social function of ancient meals. This chapter examines this issue in the light of a more comprehensive model of the ancient banquet both as a social institution and as a literary motif. The meals of Jesus mentioned in the gospels tend to be occasions at which the most formal of social conventions are practiced. There are various meal references in the gospels in which the primary motif is Jesus' opposition to certain interpretations of Jewish dietary laws.

Keywords: gospels; historical Jesus; Jewish dietary laws; table fellowship



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