Modelling Early Christianity: Social-Scientific Studies of the New Testament in Its Context

By Philip F. Esler | Go to book overview

11

WOMEN AND MEN AT HELLENISTIC SYMPOSIA MEALS IN LUKE

Stuart L. Love

INTRODUCTION

Two related topics in the Gospel of Luke are gender (women and men) and food (hospitality, meals, table fellowship). Concerning food, David P. Moessner states, At table Jesus reveals himself as the Lord-Host of the Heavenly Banquet which is now dynamically being fulfilled in his journeying to Jerusalem’ (1989:174). 1 So strategic is this topic that one might be led to believe, as Robert J. Karris points out, ‘Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal’ (1985:47). Jesus seems to eat with nearly everyone—toll collectors, sinners, disciples, crowds, Pharisees and women.

Food and meals are the social context in which a number of Lukan concerns are expressed. At table, Luke depicts how God fellowships Jews and gentiles (Esler 1987:71-109) and outcasts, 2 and in so doing is concerned for justice in the treatment of the poor, maimed, lame and blind (Luke 14:13, 21). 3 By eating with outcasts Jesus provides an ‘acted parable’ of the Kingdom (Karris 1985:58). As Norman perrin observes, ‘Scribe, tax collector, fisherman and Zealot’ come together around the table at which they celebrate ‘the joy of the present experience’ and anticipate ‘its consummation in the future’ (1967:102-108).

The topic of gender also underscores Luke’s view of the Kingdom and God’s concern for outcasts. For example, the treatment of particular women such as Elizabeth (ch. 1), Mary (chs 1-2), Anna (2:36-38), the widow of Nain (7:11-17), the women who followed Jesus out of Galilee (8:2-3; 23:55; 24:10; Acts 1:12-14), the woman healed in the synagogue on the Sabbath (13:16) and the poor widow who gave up all (20:45-21:4) helps bind the narrative together by highlighting the humble position of women, their socio-religious marginality, their crucial place in the story of God’s salvation and their inclusion (pairing) alongside men in the Lukan redaction. 4 A direct linkage between women and meals is found in the stories of Simon’s banquet (7:36-50) and Martha’s hospitality to Jesus (10:38-42).

In the treatment of women, however, Luke appears to take deliberate care in exercising social restraint illustrated by the barrenness of Elizabeth, the silent

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