Table fellowship in the ancient Mediterranean was more than food consumption. From Plato on down, banquets held an important place in creating community, sharing values, and connecting with the divine. In this groundbreaking volume, Dennis E. Smith presents the latest research on banquets in the ancient world and the light it sheds on the biblical view of table fellowship. Smith offers a thorough discussion Greco-Roman, philosophical, sacrificial, club, Jewish, and Christian banquets, and uses these emerging images to better understand the context and significance of the banquet in Scripture and Christian theology.
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Smith’s fine-grained analysis of Greco-Roman dining customs and the literary conventions surrounding the symposium is a breakthrough that sets the New Testament data on meals into their rightful cultural and historical contexts. Smith sheds new light on vital issues concerning the historical Jesus, Paul’s theology and ethics, and the development of early Christian worship. This is a definitive study on a fundamental topic in Christian origins.
—Robert J. Miller, author, The Jesus Seminar and Its Critics
A veritable feast of information on the cultural, religious, and social backgrounds to the social bonding and community formation at meals in early Christian communities. Smith provides a wealth of material for a new analysis of the impact that Greco-Roman meal customs had on the creation of community in the early church. His work has great significance for many areas of New Testament study, including Christian origins, gospel studies, and Pauline studies. Sure to become a classic resource for the social, religious, and cultural background of the New Testament as a whole.
—Kathleen E. Corley, professor of New Testament and Christianity, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh