Friday, October 06, 2006

Jesus just a good Whisperer?

Jesus: "Hey, John. The one who dips from this cup will betray me." ... "Well lookie there, Judas..." Peter: "Is it me?" Jesus: "Judas, what you do, do quickly." Peter: "IS IT MEEE???"

Or something like that. I have often wondered how all that talking and predicting went on and everyone seemed so naive. It always seemed that everyone except for John was deaf as a stump. Until... I started a great book a while back by Edersheim called 'The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah' Edersheim is an amazing Jewish historian that brings to life all of those Gospel narratives with historical data. To me, this little mystery is now solved...

So here is how it probably worked. Of course it never worked the way we see it in Da Vinci's famous painting. The Pashal table was usually a low-to-the-ground Eastern table. It was raised a bit to avoid ritual defilement. The Disciples would have then reclined on pillows sitting on the floor. It was custom to recline at the table, lying on the left side and leaning on the left hand, the feet stretching back towards the ground, and each guest occupying a separate divan or pillow. Pretty relaxing arrangement I would say. No where near as stuffy as the cruddy church steel chairs and rickety fellowship hall tables we decorate in the Baptist Church.

So now we can get a good picture of how the table looked.

As far as the arrangement of the table. Jewish documents are explicit as to that of the guests. It seems to have been quite an established rule that, in a company of more than two the "Head Hancho" or Head-in this instance of course, Jesus- reclined on the middle divan or pillow. We know from the Gospel that John occupied the place on His right, at the head of the table. So the "Head" was actually in the middle of the table, not the end of the table. So Da Vinci at least got that right.

This is the REALLY interesting part. The chief place next to the Master would be that to His left, or "above" Him. In the strife of the disciples, when they were arguing over who would be the greatest, this had been claimed, and it is believed to have been actually occupied, by ... Judas. This explains how when Jesus whispered to John, at the end of the table to Jesus's right, how to spot the traitor, none of the other disciples heard it.

It also explains how when Christ would first hand to Judas the sop, which formed part of the Paschal ritual, exciting special significance. If you are Star Trek fans, Judas would have been "Number 1", second in command. Lastly, it accounts for the circumstance that, when Judas, desiring to ascertain whether his treachery was already known by Jesus who he knew could see beyond the physical realm, dared to ask whether it was he, and received the affirmative answer, no one at the table knew what had passed. So no, they weren't deaf. This could not have been the case, unless Judas had occupied the place next to Christ, to His left, the place of chief honor.

As regards to Peter, we can understand how, when the Lord with such loving words rebuked their self-seeking and taught them of the greatness of Christian humility, Peter would have, in his eagerness of shame, rushed to take the LOWEST place at the other end of the table. This would finally explain how Peter could beckon to John, who sat at the opposite end of the table, over against him, and ask him across the table, who the traitor was. The rest of the disciples would sit wherever they would want.

I just love this kind of stuff. It brings the Gospels to life and enriches my Spirit.


Seth Ward said...

Cach, heard anything to the contrary?

Anonymous said...

No, nothing contrary. I do get a big kick out of how Renaissance and Middle Age art is used with reference to authority on Christianity. That's also where the "Jesus as Scandanavian guy" conception comes from. It was really nothing more than translating the gospel into the visual language of the day. How da Vinci's masterpiece became the dominant concept of the Last Supper I'll never know.

Can we say for sure that the table was arranged exactly as Edersheim postulates... no. But his description of the table is absolutely accurate and it is an explanation that fits very well with the narratives we have. At the very least it should serve to knock down some inappropriate preconceptions and get the creative juices going.

The 'U' shaped arrangement was a hand-me-down from the Greeks that was also used by the Romans. Since Israel was Hellenized, this is merely one of the customs that was adopted.

It's monstrously interesting and like I said, it does make good sense.

Susanne said...

I always get a kick out of seeing a European-looking Jesus. Didn't those artists know that he was an Arab Jew?!! Too funny. When I see Israelis and Palestinians on the news, I always picture Jesus looking like them. I also picture Jesus as being not so physically attractive. I figure when the anti-Christ comes, he'll probably look like a movie star and have the charisma of a politician. :)One more reminder for us that it's what's inside a person that's most important!

Guess I got really off topic, Seth! The Last Supper info was really interesting. Pretty neat stuff to think about.

Anonymous said...

Susanne, are you accusing me of being the antichrist???

"look like a movie star and have the charisma of a politician."

Sure sounds like me...

Seth Ward said...

I have often wondered about your anitchrist tendencies myself... Tell me, do you find yourself attracted to... World dominace and the numbers "6-6 and 6"


Have you been awakened in the night by the sounds of 'Stairway to Heaven" playing backwards????? or have you found yourself with the urge to grow an extremely long gotee and twist the end of it with your earwax while laughing out loud.... much like....THE PICUTRE YOU HAVE POSTED????!!!!!! GUILTY I SAY GUILTY!!!!!...

see you tomorrow