Mike Aquilina

Table Talk

Monday September 24th 2007, 3:06 am

If ever you want to pursue a long, fascinating, and ultimately inconclusive study, start to poke around in the ritual banquets of late antiquity. The Fathers speak of the Christian agape, the cena pura, and the refrigerium, among others; the Jewish chaburah and, of course, the sacrificial meals of the Passover and the Todah. Scholars debate whether the banquet Paul describes in First Corinthians is a eucharistic liturgy or connected with a eucharistic liturgy. Dennis Smith’s From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World is an interesting overview (though its low-church conclusions are puzzling). There’s endless and dazzling detail, much of it from primary sources, in the very rare volumes 5 and 6 of Erwin Goodenough’s Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period: Fish, Bread, and Wine.

For a fast-food treatment of the subject, though, hop on over to N.S. Gill at About.com. She’s posted some excellent material on banquets: menus, ingredients, even etiquette.