The Last Supper Portrait Is in Error Based on Scripture and History
Jesus was not seated at a typical table
Most everyone at one time or another has seen Leonardo Divinci’s depiction of the Last Supper which is the final meal Christ ate with his followers before being crucified. This famous painting is on the walls of many Christian homes and also churches. If you have a copy of this portrait in your home, you may be surprised to find out that it is in grave error. The book and movie entitled The Davinci Code have made millions and people around the world search the picture for clues that are supposedly hidden within. It may all be for naught when you consider the facts.
First of all the portrait was done between 1495-1498 which was close to 1500 years after Jesus ate the famous meal with his followers. It’s not clear what Davinci based his image on but scripture reveals Christ and his disciples were not seated upright at a table. Please consider the following verses.
New International Version
Matthew 26:20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.
Luke 22:14 English Standard Version
And when the hour came, he reclined at table and the apostles with him.
The Lord’s Supper
Luke 22:14 Amplified version.
When the hour [for the meal] had come, Jesus reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.
Eating arrangements in Jesus day
Generoso Urciuoli, is an archaeologist at Italy's Petrie center. He is also the author of the Archeoricette blog on ancient food. He writes that history reveals that it was customary during Jesus' time in Palestine to follow Roman customs, which were not anything like Davinci's depiction. Urciuoli, says that a team of researchers put together clues and historical data from artworks such as catacomb paintings from the third century A.D. The researchers were able to reconstruct eating habits and food choices in Palestine 2,000 years ago.
The picture that emerges is completely different from what is depicted in the traditional renderings of Christ's final meal. The dinner, which took place in the upper room of a house in Jerusalem, was not a gathering where everyone was sitting at a rectangular table. The people of that day ate seated on cushions or pillows around a table low enough for them to reach.
Seating for meals
According to Julian Sprigg, MA, a Roman dining table was called a triclinium because it contained three couches, which were set around a central table. This table was a low block with couches around it on three sides. There would be a single couch located in the middle, where the host would sit. One couch was to the left of the host, and one to his right, opposite of each other. The side opposite the host was left open so that food could be brought to the table. The couches were covered by a cushion, or a cushion would be provided so that the guest could lean on it. The guests approached the table from behind the couches, then they reclined on their left side. They would support their head on their left elbow. This left their right hand free to take the food
A traditional Roman triclinium seated nine people, with three on each couch. For the last supper, there were alleged to be thirteen individuals in attendance. This would indicate that they used larger couches, or were lying on cushions on the floor, They might also have been seated closely together considering they were a group of friends. While they were eating, their feet would be stretched out behind them and away from the table. This would have made it easy for Jesus to wash his disciple's feet.
Davinci was off base
Divinci's image does not allow for a comfortable manner in which Jesus could have washed his disciples feet, as they are sitting at a large table. Jesus would have had to go underneath the table, or the disciples would have had to move away from it in order to have their feet washed. If they were seated in the manner, that history suggests then a man’s head would be lined up with the chest of the person who was reclining to his left. This would make it easy to lean back and talk to the person on the left without anyone else being able to hear the conversation.
People have dissected Diivinci's painting for decades, trying to prove whether the person leaning on Christ from his left was John, the beloved disciple or Mary Magdaline. Now, however, taking a closer look at scripture, and understanding the history of the day, Divinci's famous "Last supper" is more than likely a fraud.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Cheryl E Preston