C The Last Supper

We need have no doubt that Jesus did meet with his disciples for what proved to be their final meal together 'on the night when he was handed over' (1 Cor. 11.23).37 Paul confirms that the timing was part of the core and foundation tradition which he received as part of his personal Christian formation, and which he in turn passed on when he established the church in Corinth. Such a meal would have been in character anyway for a mission in which table-fellowship was such a marked feature (§ 14.8a). And though as a meal shared only with his closest disciples it is actually unique within the Gospel tradition, the implication of the ear-

presumably hell! In Dante's Divine Comedy Judas the arch-traitor is forever being devoured by Lucifer (along with Brutus and Cassius!) in the deepest depths of hell (Hell, Canto 34.5569). See also H. Maccoby, Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil (London: Halban, 1992).

33. Note, e.g., the portrayal of Judas in the 'hit' musicals of the 1960s and 1970s 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'Godspell' and in Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ. The most recent attempt to rehabilitate Judas is by W. Klassen, Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1996), who makes much of the fact thatparadidomi means 'hand over' rather than 'betray' (47-58); also 'The Authenticity of Judas' Participation in the Arrest of Jesus', in Chilton and Evans, eds., Authenticating the Activities of Jesus 389-410.

34. But only Matthew counts the sum as 'thirty pieces of silver' (Matt. 26.15), and there is a suspicion that he derived the figure from which he quotes in 27.9.

35. Matthew's account includes report of Judas' remorse: 'I have sinned by betraying innocent blood' (27.4).

36. Further discussion in Brown, Death 637-60 (bibliography 566-67); Davies and Allison, Matthew 3.559-60 (bibliography 572-73); also Klassen, Judas 160-76.

narrative is probably that much of Jesus' teaching directed to his inner circle of disciples took place in the context of meals.38

There is, however, a major and tantalising question difficult to resolve: Was the last meal a Passover? That is clearly how the Synoptic Evangelists wanted it to be understood (Mark 14.1-2, 12-17 pars.). And in his classic study Jeremias finds grounds for an affirmative answer in the facts that the meal was eaten in Jerusalem (not Bethany), and at night, and that wine was drunk, and in the words of interpretation (Mark 14.22-24 pars.).39 On the other hand, there is no allusion to the normal elements in the Passover meal,40 the last supper tradition itself does not speak of it as a Passover, and the execution of Jesus was unlikely to take place on the day of Passover itself. The Fourth Evangelist strengthens the last observation by reporting that Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation (paraskeue) for the Passover (John 19.14), that is prior to the Passover meal (18.28).41 One can hardly avoid the suspicion that John is making a theological point here: Jesus, the lamb of God (1.29, 36), was crucified at the time the Passover lambs were being slaughtered,42 that is, along with the other Passover Even so, as the evidence stands, in this case it is as likely as not that John has been able to draw his theological point from the actual historical sequence. And as likely as not also that the Synoptic version re-

38. Given the Fourth Evangelist's handling of Jesus' 'signs', I am less confident than R. A. Bauckham that a positive answer can be given to his question 'Did Jesus Wash His Disciples' Feet?' (in Chilton and Evans, Authenticating the Activities of Jesus 411-29), in reference to the last supper in particular.

39. Jeremias, Eucharistic Words ch. 1, particularly 41-62; similarly Pesch, Markusevangelium 2.362; I. H. Marshall, Last Supper and Lord's Supper (Exeter: Paternoster, 1980) 57-75; Stuhlmacher, Biblische Theologie 1.133-35 (pressing also the symbolism of the twelve); Gnilka, Jesus 280-81; Wright, Jesus 555-59; Casey, Aramaic Sources 236-38.

40. Arguably Jesus himself would not have taken a lamb to the Temple to be slaughtered, given the disturbance he had caused a few days earlier. But someone must have attended to such an indispensable part of the Passover ritual. Sanders speculates: 'Perhaps "they [the disciples] prepared" means "they bought a lamb, had it slaughtered at the Temple and put it on a spit to roast'" (Historical Figure 251). Casey, however, has no trouble in envisioning Jesus himself taking the responsibility (Aramaic Sources 222-23). For the ritual itself see Sanders, Judaism 132-38.

41. Also Gos. Pet. 2.5. See Brown, Death 845-46. It should be recalled that the Jewish day ended with nightfall, so an evening meal (after nightfall) would take place on the next day; on Jewish time-keeping Jesus was crucified on the same day that he ate his last meal with his disciples.

42. The time of day when the slaughtering began is not clear; most valuable is Brown's note (Death 847 n. 47).

43. That John intended Jesus' death to be understood as that of the Passover lamb is implied in 19.29 (the mention of hyssop — cf. Exod. 12.22) and clear in 19.36 (citing the Passover regulation — Exod. 12.46).

an early alternative interpretation of the core last supper tradition as a Passover meal.44

When arguments are so finely balanced it is wise not to press for one alternative as against another. Both interpretations indicate that the link between Jesus and the Passover was early on seen as important and instructive (cf. 1 Cor. 5.7). Each elaborated the link in his own way. But as for the meal itself we are hardly encouraged by the data to conclude more than that Jesus gave a heightened significance to what he may already have sensed was likely to be their last meal together.45 What that heightened significance was is a subject to which we will have to return below (§§ 17.3c. 4e. 5d).

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