Common Eating – Old and New Testament

This is another one of the sections that I’ve been giving a great deal of thought as to how I would like to present it.  In the regular type face sections below you will see that while I put some emphasis on the stories of the Old and New Testament, there was not necessarily a lot of emphasis there originally. There are definitely a lot of changes to this post, and I think, that as I continue to develop this course, there will be a lot more to come. 
This post was originally written about five and half years ago. Since that time I’ve go more deeply involved in reading and writing about food. It’s also changed the way I’ve heard the Bible. In part this is because, as a priest, the Lectionary plays a substantial role in my Bible reading. The Lectionary does tend to cut out large parts of the text which means that certain stories get greater emphasis than they would if you simply read the Bible cover to cover. 

olive oil shows up in both Old and New Testament
Olive oil would be a staple of meals in Biblical Times, although not in glass bottles with fancy labels.

While I find the lectionary difficult at times there are also other times when I find it quite delightful. Every so often as I am preparing my sermon for the week I come across a food story that I hadn’t thought about before. I may have read the passage several times, but there is something in breaking a passage down in the way the lectionary does that draws my attention to elements of it that I may not have noticed in the past. 
I think this is because there are passages where the food element is central, but there are also a fair number of passages where the food element may just appear in passing. When I see these it makes me stop, and go, hmmm, I wonder why that was included as part of the story. Does this help me understand the context of the story better, or does this mean that maybe I’m missing some of what is going on this bigger story, and I have to go back and read it again more carefully?
I’ve decided that I would include both the Old and New Testament classes in this one post, even though they will make up separate weeks in the course itself.  One reason for doing it is an attempt to limit the number of posts that I am doing in connection with the course.  Another reason is that the design and lecture format for these two classes will most likely be very similar.
So, the OT first.  Among possible questions to be raised and discussed is the role of common eating in the sacrificial system and rules. When looking at sacrifice system we will look not only at the requirements surrounding the animals to be sacrificed, but also the way in which the food derived from the sacrifices is later to be distributed. 
Places in the text where common eating plays into the narrative flow. Individual stories are also open to discussion, such as the whole story of Jacob taking Esau’s birthright for a bowl of stew, and the trickery of Jacob and Rebekah conspiring to fool Isaac, in both cases meals being served in solitary rather than in common settings. In other words, the meal being used to isolate first Esau, and later Isaac from the whole family, in such a manner that manipulation becomes easier to achieve. 
Not all of the Biblical stories are of pleasant memories and good fellowship based around the common enjoyment of a meal. The Book of Esther in particular is full of banquets, both good and bad. David inviting Uriah to eat and drink, to cover up David’s sin against Bathsheba, is another such story that we will look at. 
Naturally the institution of the Passover will be covered, a topic which will be picked up a couple of weeks later in the context of the class on the Eucharist.  One specific element of the Passover story that fits into the overarching theme of the course, is the plan for families that couldn’t eat a lamb on their own, to share with another family. 
We will also lay some of the ground work on the subject of hospitality, which will also be picked up in more detail later on the course.
Inter-Testamental developments will also be given a place either at the end of the first class or at the beginning of the second.  When it comes to the New Testament, the primary focus will be on the experiences of common eating in the Gospel narratives.  Jesus eating with his disciples, Jesus eating with the Pharisees and other leaders, and Jesus eating with the outcasts and sinners.
Meals in other parts of the New Testament will also be referred to. The book of Acts with it’s emphasis on the holding of property in common and the regular sharing of meals is a natural point of emphasis. 
The class will end with a look at the Last Supper, setting up the next weeks discussion of the Eucharist. My original intent was to take some time to introduce the Eucharist as part of this lesson. I think looking things over I will simply move the entirety of the Eucharist into the next week’s class. 
I look at other topics covered here and think I would likely move the discussion of their Biblical contexts in the lessons that focus on those specific topics. So, Biblical texts on hospitality would be left until the week the class discusses the topic of hospitality. Things such as purity laws, etc. could be worked into other weeks as well. One of the topics that the Bible presents in relation to food is the role of gleaning, which plays such a pivotal part in the story of Ruth and Boaz. This is an often neglected element in the rules surrounding food in the Old Testament. 
A final option for this class is to take it and split it off into two classes. The first would deal with the items such as the purity laws, etc. and the second with the stories contained in the text. Another way to do this may be to make one class about Jesus at meals, and then take all the other elements and put them in a second class. Either of these options would mean, that to keep this class to 13 weeks, I’d need to go through the course and find a way to restructure some of the other classes.
As I said at the beginning of this post, the more I do a deep dive into food, and into what the Bible has to say about food and eating together, the more I find that there is to learn. So, it’s entirely possible that by the time I’ve done all the work preparatory to making this course workable, I may decide that I have enough material for two distinct courses. Who knows, but I think for now I need to find a way to make one course workable before I try and create two.
Again, I welcome all comments.  You can comment in the comment section below or send me a tweet @anglibubs.

32 thoughts on “Common Eating – Old and New Testament”

  1. Thank you for the visit.
    I, recently, got a comment on my FB from a dear friend.
    She is a vegan.
    She said that meat is not mentioned in the bible.
    I am going to HAVE to e-mail her your blog!
    I can be evil!

  2. Oh, I love this topic! I believe that one of the best ways to understand a culture is through its food.
    Years ago, I’d borrowed The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast: Past Present and Future from the library. I’m still hoping to find my own copy in a used bookstore somewhere! LOL It was so fascinating! The first part of the book talked about feasts and food in the Bible, and the importance of common eating and hospitality in the culture of the time. I learned so much! (Interestingly, it was the comments included with the recipes I found preachy. LOL) Some things included how hospitality required the offer food and drink to anyone – mutual survival depended on this – and if a messenger came, he was given the opportunity to wash, eat and drink before the message would be delivered. It didn’t matter how important the message was! And you did not share food with an enemy. If you shared food with someone, you were basically making a public statement in that regards. He went on to write about how a king, on learning another king eating with him as a guest was plotting against him, stood up to announce, “I will not eat with this man.” Doing so was a declaration that this other king was an enemy.
    I think I might just bight the bullet and order the book online. I would definitely recommend it.

  3. I am sort of “biblically challenged;” I have never read the entire bible, so my view is limited. I think connecting the lessons to the meals is an interesting approach to learning. I am in favor of the two-part option with Jesus and meals and then a second class with other elements.

  4. Food and drink is such an interesting area in the bible. Love to read more! By the way, thank you so much for following my blog. Hope you will enjoy reading as well. Cheers.

  5. This post is very interesting. I found myself immersed in it as I read. And thank you for following my blog.

  6. Hi David, thank you for following my blog. I also found my self very profound reading this article about a very interesting way of looking at food from both ways. 😉 Have fun with it and enjoy telling us also about it! Have a lovely one! 🙂

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