Posted by: mattcolvin | July 13, 2017

Instone-Brewer on “Who is the greatest?”


“It was natural that the disciples would discuss who was the greatest at this meal, because the seating plan and the progress of the meal depended on it. The head of the group leads the prayers and readings, and the youngest male who asks him the questions would have a prominent role that night, so he might sit near the head (or center) of the triclinium. The seating of the rest was probably determined by their relative age or importance — they would line up in order before they reclined, with the least important individuals furthest away from the head. All this would explain the heated debate among the disciples, before or during the meal, about their relative importance (Lk.22.24-27; cf. Jn.13.15f). It appears that ‘the one whom Jesus loved’ (usually identified as John) was the youngest and yet was next to Jesus, probably because of the special role which the youngest plays in the Passover liturgy. Peter, being the most important disciple, was next to him (Jn.13.23-25). If Judas was next to Jesus on the other side (as suggested by Jn.13.26-28), this would indicate that he was either considered to be very important, or he had pushed himself forward.”

David Instone-Brewer. Traditions of the Rabbis from the Era of the New Testament vol. 2A (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011). p. 184.

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