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Jesus’s Meals with Pharisees and their Liturgical Roots

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Esposito Thomas

“Analecta Biblica” 209

2015 pp. 400




Luke’s presentation of the deeds and words of Jesus features an emphasis on Jesus at table unique among the Synoptic Gospels. Luke alone portrays Jesus dining in the house of a Pharisee, and he does this on three separate occasions (7:36-50; 11:37-54; 14:1-24). An analysis of these three scenes and their surrounding narrative contexts reveals that Luke presents Jesus’ historical practice of commensality [συνεσϑίειν] as a model for Christian believers struggling to implement that teaching in their own communities. Jesus exhorts his disciples to avoid the trap of the “Pharisaic mindset”, which leads to the exclusion of others (and even auto-exclusion) from the communal meal. Excessive scholarly recourse to the Hellenistic symposium genre to interpret these meals ignores the fact that the meal itself is the message for both Jews and Gentiles. The book concludes with a suggestion that the Synoptic manner of portraying Jesus coming, going, and encountering people in need of healing or salvation has its origin in the liturgical life of the early Christian communities. This “Gospel pericopal structure” or “genre of encounter” allows Luke to present meal scenes to the believers gathered to encounter Jesus in the breaking of bread around their shared table (Lk 7:37; 24:31), just as the characters in the written Gospels do.


Thomas Esposito (b.1982) is a Cistercian monk (O.Cist.) and priest of Our Lady of Dallas Abbey in Texas (USA). In 2011, he completed his S.S.L. at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. He earned his doctorate from the Biblicum in 2014. He is currently teaching at the Cistercian Preparatory School as well as the University of Dallas, offering courses in both the Old and New Testaments, Biblical Greek, and World Religions.

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