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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Supper (2)

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SUPPER (δεῖπνον).—The term applied in the time of Christ to the principal meal usually partaken of in the evening, and also to more elaborate collations for the entertainment of guests (weddings, birthdays, arrival and departure of friends or distinguished persons, sheep-shearing, completion of wine-making, funerals, etc.). Invitations were conveyed by slaves (Matthew 22:3 ff.). Guests were welcomed by the host with a kiss (Luke 7:45); their feet were washed by slaves (Luke 7:44); their hair, beards, and sometimes their clothes and feet were anointed with perfumed oil (Luke 7:38, John 12:3); and garlands of flowers were sometimes provided for the decoration of their heads (Wisdom of Solomon 2:7 f.; Josephus Ant. xix. ix. 1). On formal occasions the guests were arranged at the table by the master of the feast (ἀρχιτρίκλινος), usually a friend of the family, according to his conception of their relative social rank, nearness to the host being the mark of honour. Guests commonly reclined on benches (sometimes elaborate and luxurious), three or five to the bench, the feet of each extending behind, and the back of the head of each reaching to the bosom of his neighbour on the left (John 13:23; John 21:20). The tables were usually three in number, arranged to form three sides of a square. The guests reclined upon the outside, and the servants ministered from the inside. The left elbow was used for support, while the right hand and arm were free for conveying food. A somewhat formal giving of thanks preceded each meal (εὐλογία, εὐχαριστία). This practice was carefully observed by Jesus and His disciples (Matthew 14:19; Matthew 15:36; Matthew 26:26, Luke 9:16, John 6:11). At suppers of the more formal or festive type the host served the guests with equal portions as far as was practicable, where no special honour was to be done to special guests. In the latter case, a double, triple, or even quintuple, or a particularly choice portion was bestowed upon the guest of honour. At less formal suppers the food was cut into small pieces and put into large dishes, from which the guests took them with their lingers and conveyed them to flat cakes of bread which served as plates, where they pulled them to pieces before conveying them to their mouths. Pieces of the bread were used as spoons for dipping gravy from the common dish. Individual knives, forks, and spoons were not used even by the wealthy until long after NT times. The practice of hand-washing immediately before the meal had thus its special appropriateness. When women were admitted to suppers of the more formal kind (which was probably unusual), they seem to have sat rather than reclined. Wine was drunk during the meal and after the eating (Mishna, Berakhoth vi. 5 f., cf. viii. 8). Thanksgiving and hand-washing closed the meal.

The ordinary suppers of the well-to-do classes were far less formal. The suppers of the poor were no doubt partaken of without tables or seats, the family sitting, or squatting on the ground, around a skin or mat, and partaking of the plain food (flesh being rarely used) out of common vessels with the fingers. See also artt. Food, Meals, and Last Supper.

Literature.—Artt. in the Bible Dictionaries of Smith, Kitto, Hastings, Schenkel, Riehm, the EBi [Note: Bi Encyclopaedia Biblica.] , Winer’s RWB [Note: WB Realwörterbuch.] , Herzog-Hauck, PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lexikon; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb.; E. Rohinson, BRP [Note: RP Biblical Researches in Palestine.] ; Buxtorf, de Conviviis Ebrœorum; and Ugolini’s Thesaurus, vol. xxx.

Albert Henry Newman.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Supper (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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