Dining with Jesus

J. E. Hill, edited by John Stone


In that collective wealth of contradictory writing known as the Christian Bible, the New Testament synoptic contains more disagreements to dates, events, places, and people, page for page, than one could possibly imagine. While the argument from silence could be argued here for many of the instances, as too the premise of gospel layering, this only goes so far and certainly does not explicate several notable cases that stand out more than others. Such is the case with the so-called Lords supper or the last supper of Jesus.

This is an event of epic proportions; a part of the passion of Jesus in which there is no comparison and perhaps unique only to the Christian Bible in the form presented. We have details of the last supper told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Curiously, John supplants this emotional repast with the episode of the emotional washing of the disciples feet (John 13:1-12) at a supper, but omits the scene with the bread and wine. The only food at John's last supper is the morsel (v 26) offered to only Judas. One question that arises here is how could or why would John omit the details of the last supper and Matthew, Mark, and Luke omit the foot washing scene? Especially curious is why John did not write about the eating of the bread and drinking of the wine at the supper. These are heavy theological underpinnings to the other evangelists, yet not a shred of this supper event is to be found in the Johnnaine opus. This is an extraordinary contradictory situation. Did the foot washing really occur? Was the last supper just an informal sit down, not worthy of John's praise?

Perhaps the later authorship of John is one explanation and perhaps the symbolical idea of eating Jesus' body and drinking his blood was repulsive to the more refined theology of John. Yet John does have Jesus' cannibalistic vampire ritual, in his own words, (John 6:53) declared emphatically that one needs to eat his body and drink his blood to be saved. John declares that Jesus proclaimed this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. The other evangelists all mention his teaching in and around the Synagogue in Capernaum, but do not hear what John heard. There is virtually no mention of Jesus uttering these words. This makes the omission of the same declaration at a last supper even more curious for this is only when the other evangelists mention the introduction of the ritual. Indeed, the foot washing scene is much more worthy of a suffering servant than simply being served at a communal meal. However, the non-argeement of the content at hand is insurmountable to dispute. There is simply no way these accounts can be reconciled as being in harmony with each other, perfect or otherwise. Likewise too is the disagreement between John and the other evangelists on whether it was the Passover feast or not. The events are too great and too much emphasis is placed upon them to be ignored or discounted by the others who were undeniably present at the same events at the same time. Did not the other evangelists notice their feet being washed by their master? John goes into great detail about the foot washing even so to include an interesting aside concerning the request of Simon Peter. Not only did Simon Peter want his feet washed, he also (the only one) wanted Jesus to wash his hands and head! Jesus politely declined.

Lawrence O. Richards of the 1991 edition of the Victor Bible Background Commentary, NT says of the foot washing episode that, "[w]e can imagine no more powerful way that Jesus could have left his disciples an example of the attitude they must develop to effectively lead the people of God." It is clear that the other disciples thought differently. Richards (and other commentaries such as the Oxford Bible Companion) completely gloss over the contradictions and silence of the other evangelists. How convenient, just like your ministers/clergy.

The book of Acts describes believers meeting to break bread (2:42, 46 and 20:7) with no reference to a cup, a Lords Supper or the symbolic nature of the eating the body or drinking of the blood of a sJesus to receive the heavenly blessing. Nor is there anywhere in the Acts of the Apostles a single reference to a foot washing rite.

What about Paul? What does he have to say about the last supper or the foot washing episode? Surely Paul would use these events to reinforce his ministry. Remember, since Paul never met Jesus, he said he communicated with him--visions etc. Surely Jesus would have informed his faithful servant Paul, what went on and what was important to record and remember for all time and eternity. Yet the words in 1 Cor 11: 20-29 seem to have no connection to the events described by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Indeed, the Interpreters One Volume Commentary (p 667) says that Paul's account, "...seems to reflect a memorial service..." or a communal feast or celebration of fellowship with a spiritually risen Jesus within newly formed churches. Likewise, the Hellenic Paul was certainly familiar with Grecian idea of "dining with the gods.". Nowhere does Paul mention the foot washing. How could Paul meet with Peter and James in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26) for fifteen days (Gal 1:18) and not know of these passionate pleadings from Jesus or the institution of these rites? Here, Paul also reminds us he does not lie. It is difficult, no, impossible to believe or accept that Paul stayed with Peter and James and yet knows nothing of the details of the last supper or foot washing or even that Judas was the name of the betrayer. How could Paul possibly know of the night of Jesus betrayal and not know the name of the most infamous betrayer in the history of mankind past, present, or future?

This make no sense at all. And, the argument from silence only can be defended to a certain point. When, as the above points out, the characters had opportunity in the form of time and place and motivation to assert the authority of these teachings demanded by Jesus to be carried on (with the great commission) the argument from silence fails and there simply has to be a another explanation of the vast differences. But that's not all. The dessert to this Last Supper is yet to come: The three evangelists' who do include the last supper cannot agree on which happened first: The drinking from the cup or the eating of the bread. Matthew, in 26:26 says, "Now as their eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke it...." Then in v. 27: "and he took a cup...." Mark, in 14:22 has Jesus breaking the bread and raising the cup. But, Luke disagrees. Luke 22:17: "...and he took a cup and when he had given thanks he said, take this and divide it among yourselves." Luke continues in verse 19, "...and he took the bread...and broke it." Luke does give an instruction to "...do this in remembrance of me." and (v 20) likewise the cup after supper saying, "this cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." Clearly this is an instruction for future remembrances. It certainly was not the order of this particular event. It is a stretch to think they drank both before and after the breaking of the bread and Matthew and Mark. simply got it wrong nor can the inerrantist claim these events are layered to make a complete picture. They are just too out of joint and reason. Bibliolaters will come up with some far fetched explanation, but as it is written in the book of perfect harmony it is not that they simply do not agree, they simply disagree.

"I've always felt sorry for Jesus 'cause you know no matter what he ever did, he could never live up to his father."  -Gilbert Gottfried (1955-)


The Skeptical Review; [ http://www.theskepticalreview.com/jehill/ ]