We know Jesus and the disciples drank wine at the Last Supper (see “Jesus the Teetotaler”), but what did they eat? A recent New York Times article about Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper questioned the inclusion of bread rolls on the table. In “Who Added the Yeast?” the Times’s Sarah Boxer writes: “The supper, after all, was a Passover Seder. And Jesus was a Jew. So shouldn’t the bread be unleavened?” Art historian Leo Steinberg agreed but suggested that by Leonardo’s day, the New Testament story had been disassociated from the Jewish practice of eating only unleavened bread (matzah) during Passover. “One thousand years of tradition [had] removed the Christian story from its Jewish roots,” Steinberg told the Times.

But perhaps Leonardo got it right after all. As Jonathan Klawans of Boston University argued in a recent issue of Bible Review, the Last Supper may not have been a Passover Seder.a The Gospel of John indicates that the meal took place before the Passover festival began, and the Seder as we know it developed only after the time of Jesus. If it wasn’t a Seder, then Jesus could have eaten whatever bread he wanted—even dinner rolls. Then again, the meal could have been a Passover meal, just not a Seder held on the first night. In that case, matzah would be more appropriate.