See Hershel Shanks, “Is It or Isn’t It—A Synagogue? Archaeologists Disagree Over Buildings at Jericho and Migdal,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2001.



Of the leading modern versions, the New International Version stands apart in sometimes correctly translating “recline” where the Greek so indicates, but it is inconsistent and often reverts to the more common “sit” or simply “eat dinner.”


The drawings were originally prepared for Dennis E. Smith, From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003). This book is also the primary resource for the present article. Romney Oualline Nesbitt is a pastor and former student at Phillips Theological Seminary.


On the Corinth Asclepius sanctuary, see Carl Roebuck, Corinth XIV: The Asklepieion and Lerna (Princeton, NJ: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1951).


Plutarch, Table Talk 678D. Another second-century C.E. philosopher, Aulus Gellius, quoted an argument by Varro (first century B.C.E.) that the numbers at a triclinium banquet should range from three to nine; otherwise the party would become “disorderly” and would be forced to stand or sit rather than recline (Attic Nights 13.11.3).


It should be noted that the Sepphoris mosaic is found in the floor of a traditional -shaped triclinium; see Katherine M.D. Dunbabin, The Roman Banquet: Images of Conviviality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 166.


Dunbabin, The Roman Banquet, pp. 43–46, 164–174.


Jerome Murphy-O’Connor suggests a similar scenario in St. Paul’s Corinth: Texts and Archaeology (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1983), pp. 162–165.


See Oswyn Murray, “War and the Symposium,” in Dining in the Classical Context, ed. W.J. Slater (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1991), p. 101, n. 24. Athenaeus 10.426d quotes an ancient proverb on this subject: “‘Drink either five or three or at the least not four.’ For they say one should drink two parts wine to five of water, or one part wine to three of water.” Plutarch informs us that wine at the banquet table was assumed to be the mixed beverage: “We call a mixture ‘wine’ although the larger of the component parts is water (Conjugalia Praecepta 140F).”


Athenaeus, writing sometime around 200 C.E., described the Greek custom in this way: “When the unmixed wine is poured during dinner, the Greeks call upon the name of the ‘Good Deity,’ giving honor to the deity who discovered the wine; he was Dionysus” (238d, quoting from an earlier source, Philochorus, of the late fourth century B.C.E.). The Jewish prayer quoted above derives from Mishnah Berakot 6.1.


Plato, Symposium 176D.


See Plutarch, Table Talk 615E; Lucian, Symposium 8-13.


For evidence, see especially Joan Burton, “Women’s Commensality in the Ancient Greek World,” Greece and Rome 45:2 (October 1998), pp. 143–165.


Plato, Symposium 176E.


Plutarch, Table Talk 614A-B.


Paul’s discussion of the church gathering begins with the reference to the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34. He continues to discuss the church gathering in chapters 12 and 14. It is logical to assume that it was the same gathering and that the “worship service” began with the meal and continued at the table. This is supported by the further assumption that they met in a home and, therefore, would most likely have begun and continued the meeting in the dining room. For further discussion of this point, see Smith, From Symposium to Eucharist, pp. 179–180, 200–207.


See Chan-Hie Kim, “The Papyrus Invitation,” Journal of Biblical Literature 94:3 (1975), pp. 391–402.


Plutarch, Table Talk 614E, 615A.


For more on the messianic banquet theme, see my article on that subject in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. The substance of that article is also reproduced in Smith, From Symposium to Eucharist, pp. 166–171.


See Robin M. Jensen, “Dining in Heaven,” BR, October, 1998; and Understanding Early Christian Art (New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 52–59.