Open Fellowship

I have left this characteristic of discipleship to the last, not because it is of lesser importance than the rest, but because it sums up much that was both characteristic and distinctive of the social self-understanding that Jesus encouraged in his disciples. Two features in particular stand out: table-fellowship and absence of boundaries. Thev overlap, but it is worth attempting to give them separate treatment.

a. Table Fellowship

Jesus' practice of eating in companv was clearlv a regular and important feature of his mission. We have alreadv noted that Jesus had a reputation for eating and drinking too much — 'a glutton and a drunkard' (Matt. 11.19/Luke 7.34).252 We should hardlv take such an accusation literallv.253 But presumablv Jesus did spend a fair amount of time at the meal table, no doubt in conversation and teach

251. It is unclear what Matt. 19.12 ('. . . there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven') contributes to the discussion. It can certainlv be attributed to Jesus (see particularfy Davies and Allison, Matthew 3.22-25; Allison, Jesus 182-85) and could be taken as a piece of autobiographv (without implication of literal self-castration) in partial explanation of why Jesus himself did not marty (e.g., Schrage, Ethics 93; Gnilka, Jesus 172-73), quite possibfy as a jibe directed against Jesus bv his critics (J. Blinzler, 'Eisin eunouchoi. Zur Auslegung von Mt 19,12', ZAW48 [1957] 254-70; F.J. Moloney, 'Matthew 19.3-12 and Celibacy', JSNT 2 [1979] 42-60 [here 50-52]; Meier, Marginal Jew 3.50-4505, 507-508). But if so, is it more than a vivid expression of complete commitment to his mission (cf. Paul: 1 Cor. 7.32-35; 9.5, 12)? And is there anv real indication that Jesus expected quite such an extreme expression of dedication from all his disciples (contrast 1 Cor. 9.5)? Allison pushes the evidence too hard (Matt. 19.10-12; 5.27-28; Mark 9.42-48 [chapter 12 n. 192]; 12.18-27) in arguing that Jesus can be understood as a 'millenarian ascetic' some of whose teaching 'reveals a deep alienation from the world as it is' (Jesus 172-216, quotation from 205). Nor should Matt. 23.9 ('Call no man vour father on earth') be cited here (pace Gnilka, Jesus 201-202; cf. Barton, Discipleship 130). As Barton notes (215 n. 294), what is in view is not household authoritv but teaching authoritv (see also Davies and Allison, Matthew 3.276-77).

253. 'An urban partvgoer', 'the proverbial partv animal' (Funk, Honest 192, 208). Jeremias argues that the denigration of Jesus is derived from Deut. and 'stigmatizes him on the strength of this connection as a "refractorv and rebellious son", who deserved to be ing.254 A particular criticism was that 'he ate with tax-collectors and sinners'.255 It is also worth noting that of the several criticisms attributed to Pharisees, four have to do with matters of table-fellowship or eating practices: eating with the religiously unacceptable (n. 255), feasting rather than fasting (Mark 2.18 pars.), plucking grain (Mark 2.23-24 pars.), and eating with defiled (= unwashed) hands (Mark 7.5/Matt. 15.2). In contrast, Luke in particular makes a point of recalling how often Jesus accepted invitations to 'dine out'.

Luke also implies that Jesus' action as host, in blessing the bread and breaking it, had become a familiar act by which he could be recognized.257 The same feature may indeed be at the heart of the event recalled in the tradition as the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6.32-44 pars.): Jesus 'took the five loaves . . . blessed them, broke them, and gave them to his disciples . . .' (Mark 6.41 pars.). However much the memory has been elaborated in the retelling, the story as it has reached us was most probably based on the memory of a meal in a barren area seen to have symbolic significance from the first. It is significant for the same reason that all Evangelists agree that Jesus' final time with his disciples was spent in fellowship at the meal table — the last supper (Mark 14.22-25 pars.). That shared meals were a feature of the earliest Jerusalem community from the first (according to Luke) presumably implies that this practice was a carry-over from their time with Jesus.260

Here we need simply to recall also how Jesus used the already familiar stoned' (Parables 160). Fitzmyer points out that the Greek used here (phagos kai oinopotes) scarcely reflects the LXX(symbolokopön oinophlygei) (Luke681), though H. C. Kee, 'Jesus: A Glutton and a Drunkard', NTS 42 (1996) 374-93, questions the importance of the observation (390-91). The phrase more likely echoes Prov. 23.20-21 ('the drunkard [methusos] and the glutton [pornokopos] will become poor'), where the same Hebrew is used as in Deut. 21.20 (zolel wesobe'), 'the point being that Jesus is considered a fool' (BDAG, oinopotes).

254. Some teaching is specifically related to the context of the meal table (Mark 2.15-17 pars.; 6.30-44 pars.; 14.3-9 pars.; 14.17-25 pars.; Luke 7.36-50; 10.38-41; 11.37-52; 14.1-24; 24.36-49). But it is highly probable that much more teaching whose particular context of first delivery has not been attached to the tradition was delivered in that context. believes that 'most of the parables were part of the conversation at meals in the houses where Jesus had been invited' (Jesus 91).

255. Mark 2.15-16 pars.; Matt. 11.19/Luke7.34; Luke 15.1-2; 19.10. See again above,

256. Mark 2.15-16; 14.3; Luke 5.29; 7.36; 10.38; 11.37; 13.26; 14.1, 12; 19.5-7.

257. Luke 9.16; 24.30-31, 35. Was this a detail which Luke gleaned from his eyewitnesses (Luke 1.2)?

258. The actions are, of course, typical at the beginning of a Jewish meal, but the Lukan references alluded to in the preceding note suggest a cherished memory.

260. Acts 1.4; 2.46; note also 20.7, 11; 1 Cor. 10.14-22; 11.17-34; Jude 12. Perrin argues similarly (Rediscovering 104-105).

agery of the banquet or wedding feast as an image for life in the coming kingdom.261 Once again, even if the motif has been elaborated in the (re)telling, there should be little doubt that Jesus' own teaching had provided his disciples with the motif in the first place. And equally there need be little doubt that Jesus' own practice had been of a piece with that teaching.262

In a day when much of Western society seems to have lost the sense of the importance of family and communal meals, it is important to remind ourselves of the importance of the principle and practice of hospitality in the ancient world, and particularly of the religious and social significance of the meal table in the Ancient Near East. The ideal had long since been characterized in the Greek legend of Philemon and Baucis.263 In Jewish thought Abraham and Job were extolled as the models of hospitality, where again it was precisely the sharing of food which was the expression of that hospitality.264 And the same social etiquette is assumed in Jesus' mission instructions (particularly Luke 14.2).26 Jeremias has expressed this significance of the meal table well:266

... to invite a man to a meal was an honour. It was an offer of peace, trust, brotherhood and forgiveness; in short, sharing a table meant sharing life. . . . In Judaism in particular, table-fellowship means fellowship before God, for the eating of a piece of broken bread by everyone who shares in the meal brings out the fact that they all share in the blessing which the master of the house has spoken over the unbroken bread.267

261. See above, §12.4f.; also M. Trautmann, Zeichenhafte Handlungen Jesu (FB 37; Wurzburg: Echter, 1980) 161-62 (with bibliography).

262. Becker insists that Jesus' table-fellowship should not be regarded as merely anticipatory of what has not yet happened; it was 'the realization of the coming Kingdom of God' (Jesus160-61).

263. Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.613-70.

264. Abraham in Genesis 18; Philo, Abr. 107-14; Josephus, Ant. 1.196; 1 Clem. 10.7; probably Heb. 13.2. Job in T. Job 10.1-3;25.5; 53.3. See further those cited in my Romans744.

265. It is primarily on the basis of these texts (plus Mark 6.10) that Crossan bases his very strong judgment that 'the heart of the original Jesus movement (was) a shared egalitarian-ism of spiritual and material resources', 'open commensality' (Historical Jesus 341-44, 26164).

266. Jeremias, Proclamation 115. He cites appositely 2 Kgs. 25.27-30 (par. Jer. 52.3134) and Josephus, Ant. 19.321.

267. Barrett, Jesus 50, appositely cites W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites (1901): 'Every stranger whom one meets in the desert is a natural enemy, and has no protection against violence except his own strong hand or the fear that his tribe will avenge him if his blood be spilt. But if I have eaten the smallest morsel of food with a man, I have nothing further to fear fiicm him; "there is salt between us", and he is bound not only to do me no harm, but to help and defend me as if I were his brother . . .' (269-70). See also Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes 14-15;

It is this significance of the meal table which explains why table-fellowship was such a sensitive issue at the time of Jesus and thereafter. To eat with another was a mark of acceptance of that other. To eat regularly with another was to forge and express a special bond of fellowship. By the same token, to refuse table-fellowship was to deny the acceptability of the other. Table-fellowship functioned as a social boundary, indicating both who was inside the boundary and who was outside.268 This significance is particularly clear in the cases of two of the principal sects/brotherhoods at the time of Jesus — the Pharisees and Essenes.

The importance of table-fellowship for the Pharisees is one of the issues between Neusner and Sanders referred to in above. Neusner observed early on how many of the pre-70 rabbinic traditions attributed to the houses of Hillel and Shammai deal directly or indirectly with the purity of food, its preparation and preservation.269 Sanders protested at what he regards as a complete overstatement.270 But the supporting evidence is too strong for Neusner's claim to be discounted entirely. We have already noted the consensus that the Pharisees were a purity sect (§9.3a), and purity concerns came to focus no more sharply than at the meal table.271 And we also noted above how many of the criticisms of Jesus attributed to Pharisees in the Jesus tradition relate to common meals. There is a question which we may never be able to resolve completely as to whether such concerns were shared only by a sub-group within the larger body of Pharisees — the haberim ('associates'). But it is very difficult to distinguish Pharisees and haberim,212 and it may be that the latter term indicates simply the characteristic praxis of Pharisees.273

and further J. Bolyki, Jesu Tischgemeinschaften (WUNT 2.96; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998) 177-204.

268. Cf. especially Saldarini, Pharisees, particularly 212-16. Jews today would be among the first to observe that it is precisely at the meal table that the current different forms of Judaism come to clearest expression. The rules one follows in regard to the meal table show what kind of Jew one is.

269. Neusner, Politics 86, referring to his more detailed study Rabbinic Traditions.

270. Sanders, Jewish Law 166-236; here Hengel and Deines agree with Sanders's criticism of Neusner's overstatement, but warn in turn against overreaction ('Sanders' Judaism' 43).

271. It should cause no surprise that the popular literature of the period emphasized the hero's/heroine's faithfulness in the matter of the meal table (Dan. 1.13-16; 10.3; Tob. 1.10-12; Jdt. 12.2, 19; Add. Esth. 14.17; Jos. Asen. 7.1; 8.5).

272. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism 187; Jewish Law 154-55, 250. See also Schürer, History 2.398-400; Westerholm 13-15; the careful discussion in Saldarini, Pharisees 216-20; and Hengel and Deines's critique of Sanders ('Sanders' Judaism' 38-39 n. 96).

273. See further my Partings 109-11; also 'Jesus, Table-Fellowship, and Qumran', in J. H. Charlesworth, ed., Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 254-72 (here 257-60).

Whatever the precise details, it would appear that Jesus' practice of table-fellowship was a bone of contention between Jesus and his chief critics. The issue highlights what was evidently a marked difference in attitude on the point. Many Pharisees saw their practice of table-fellowship as characterizing Israel set apart to Yahweh,274 as therefore requiring separation from anything which would threaten that holiness, and as therefore requiring separation from the impure, the non-observant, the sinner, precisely at and by means of the meal table. Jesus in contrast enacted an open table-fellowship:276 he himself was open to invitations from a wide range of people; he was notorious for eating with tax-collectors and sinners. Holiness for Jesus, we might say, was not a negative, excluding force, but a positive, including force.277 According to Mark 2.17 in context, Jesus likened his practice of eating with sinners to the doctor's activity in healing the sick. And in so acting out this conviction he inducted his disciples into the practice as part of their discipleship.

Our evidence indicates that the Qumran Essenes were even more strict in their maintenance of the purity of the meal table. The daily meal required purification beforehand; it began and ended with prayer and was eaten in reverential silence; the garments worn at the meal were like 'holy vestments'; only after a rigorous novitiate was the would-be covenanter permitted to touch 'the common food' In striking parallel with the Jesus tradition reviewed above, the Qumran covenanters evidently saw their daily meal to be a foretaste of the eschatological banquet in the presence of the royal Messiah.279

In striking contrast with Jesus, however, the Qumran community, even more rigorously than the Pharisaic saw it to be imperative that all who

275. Ps. 1.1 itself would be sufficient warrant for such a policy.

276. Table-fellowship is putting into practice the openness of which the parables speak' (Becker, Jesus 150).

277. Borg, Conflict 134-36, but more widely applicable in his thesis (particularly 8299); independently K. Berger, 'Jesus als Pharisäer und frühe Christen als Pharisäer', NovT 30 (1988) 231-62, suggested that 'the concept of offensive holiness/purity is an essential building block for understanding the conflict of Jesus with the Pharisees' (246-47); Chilton in turn speaks of Jesus' 'contagious purity/holiness' (Jesus' Baptism 58-71); similarly S. McKnight, 'A Parting within the Way: Jesus and James on Israel and Purity', in B. Chilton and C. A. Evans, James the Just and Christian Origins (Leiden: Brill, 1999) 83-129 (here 94-98).

278. Josephus, War 2.129-33, 138-39; now confirmed by the Rule of the Community (1QS 6). Josephus also notes that even the expelled member of the community was still bound by his oath; he was 'not at liberty to partake of other men's food', and so often died of starvation (War 2.143).

279. This is indicated by the parallels between the rules for the daily meal (1QS 6) and the description of the eschatological meal in which the Messiah of Israel was expected to participate (lQ28a [lQSa] 2).

were unclean should be excluded from their assembly. The matter is referred to several times in the extant DSS and was obviously crucial for them.280 Particularly specified is anyone 'paralysed in his feet or hands, or lame (psh), or blind ('wr), or deaf, or dumb, or smitten in his flesh with a visible blemish (mwm)'. Such are to be excluded because the angels of holiness are present in the congregation (lQ28a [lQSa] 2.3-10). The list evidently echoes Lev. 21.17-24, the list of categories excluded from the priesthood,281 and reminds us that Qumran saw itself as a priestly or cultic community.282 The point of interest here is that Luke has preserved a tradition where Jesus stresses the importance of hosts inviting to their meals 'the poor, the maimed (anapeirous), the lame (cholous), and the blind (typhlous)' (Luke 14.13, 21). In context the implication is that such behaviour would be surprising to contemporary etiquette and quite possibly offensive to certain religious sensibilities. In fact, the closeness of Luke's terminology to that used at Qumran283 suggests quite strongly that Jesus gave his exhortation with Qumran in view.284 At any rate, the tradition which came down to Luke appears to have been formulated with that contrast in mind. Either way, Jesus was remembered as deliberately posing his vision of open table-fellowship in direct antithesis to the ideal practised at Qumran.

Here then is a further point of clear distinctiveness distinguishing the dis-

280. lQ28a [lQSa] 2.3-10; 1QM 7.4-6; 4QCDb (cited by J. T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea [SBT 26; London: SCM, 1959] 114); 11QT 45.12-14.

281. Say to Aaron, 'None of your descendants throughout their generations who has a blemish (mwm) may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind (wr) or lame (psh), ... or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand . . .' (Lev. 21.17-21).

282. See further above, chapter 13 n. 124.

283. The Greek cholos is the unvarying LXX translation for the Hebrew psh, and typhlos likewise of 'wr. Anapeiros is a variant form of anaperos, which denotes physical disability of an unspecified kind. Whoever put Luke 14 into its present form, therefore, may well have intended anapeiros to serve as an appropriate equivalent to hgr, 'crippled, maimed' (1QM 7.4; 4QCDb), or possibly mwm, 'blemish' (Lev. 21.17-18; lQ28a/lQSa 2.5; 1QM7.4), since physical impairment is clearly in view in the DSS texts at least. See further my 'Jesus, Table-Fellowship, and Qumran' 265-67.

284. Other possible allusions to Essene self-understanding and practice are the reference to 'the sons of light' in Luke 16.8 (Flusser, Jesus 94) and the Sabbath dispute referred to in n. 110 above (Charlesworth, Jesus 65-67); see also above, n. 194, and the review of the discussion of possible points of contact between Jesus and the Dead Seas Scrolls by J. H. Charlesworth, 'The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Historical Jesus', in Charlesworth, ed., Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls 1-74; W. O. McCready, 'The Historical Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls', in Arnal and Desjardins, eds., Whose Historical Jesus? 190-211; H. Lichtenberger, 'Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls', in Charlesworth and Johns, eds., Hillel and Jesus 389-96.

285. 'In the Judaism of that day one can hardly imagine a more obvious contrast to the table-fellowship of Jesus' (Becker, Jesus 161).

cipleship to which Jesus called from the other patterns of Israel's restoration theology. Pharisees and Essenes both pursued, with differing degrees of strictness, an ideal which required that those concerned for Israel's holiness and restoration should not only maintain a high level of purity themselves but should also, as a necessary corollary, hold themselves apart from others whom they regarded as impure. The rigour with which they practised this ideal is admirable in its devotion and self-discipline. Jesus, however, is consistently remembered as seeing things differently. The ideal of the kingdom which he promoted was one more motivated by concern for others in their various disabilities, a community marked more by such mutual concern than by the law strictly interpreted and rigorously enforced. What for many Pharisees and Essenes was a sinful disregard for covenant ideals was for Jesus an expression of the good news of the kingdom.

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