Awash in golden light, Jesus blesses the bread in this painting of “The Last Supper” by the contemporary Swedish artist Ernst Josephson. Bursting rays and brilliant hues create a radiant, ethereal setting for a meal attended by angelic disciples. On the table is a goblet of wine and a loaf of bread, somewhat reminiscent of a Jewish Sabbath table. Beside Jesus rests the sleepy disciple “whom Jesus loved,” presumably John, mentioned only in the Gospel of John.
After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E., Christianity became deeply influenced by Hellenistic Mystery cults, in which a worshiper would be joined to a deity’s death and restoration through ritual. The Gospel of John, written around 100 C.E., reflects this idea of Jesus as a new kind of Greek god who offers himself to his followers: He tells his disciples, “Whoever consumes me will live because of me” (John 6:57).