Fortress Press

From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World

From Symposium to Eucharist

The Banquet in the Early Christian World

Dennis E. Smith (Author)


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Table fellowship in the ancient Mediterranean was more than food consumption. From Plato on down, banquets held an important place in creating community, sharing values, and connecting with the divine.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800634896
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 424
  • Publication Date January 15, 2003


"Smith's fine-grained analysis of Greco-Roman dining customs and the literary conventions surrounding the symposium is a breakthrough that sets the New Testament data on meals into their rightful cultural and historical contexts. Smith sheds new light on vital issues concerning the historical Jesus, Paul's theology and ethics, and the development of early Christian worship. This is a definitive study on a fundamental topic in Christian origins."

— Robert J. Miller, author of The Jesus Seminar and Its Critics

"A veritable feast of information on the cultural, religious and social backgrounds to the social bonding and community formation at meals in early Christian communities. Smith provides a wealth of material for a new analysis of the impact that Greco-Roman meal customs had on the creation of community in the early church. His work has great significance for many areas of New Testament study, including Christian origins, gospel studies, and Pauline studies. Sure to become a classic resource for the social, religious and cultural background of the New Testament as a whole."

— Kathleen E. Corley, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh


"The primary change from symposium to eucharist is the evolution of the ritual from the dining table to the altar and from the social world of the banquet to that of sacred law. This change took place rather quickly and can be documented in early Christian literature. It represented a transition from the social code of the banquet to another social code. The banquet tradition was carried on somewhat longer in the form of the Agape, or fellowship meal. This ritual meal co-existed with the eucharist for some time and tended to carry the traditions of the banquet. The eucharist, on the other hand, soon lost its connection with banquet traditions. New Testament texts, however, still maintain that connection and provide a means for the church ever and again to reexamine its origins and renew its theology by recapturing and reconfiguring its own traditions."
— from chapter 9

Table of Contents

  1. The Banquet as Social Institution
  2. The Greco-Roman Banquet
  3. The Philosophical Banquet
  4. The Sacrificial Banquet
  5. The Club Banquet
  6. The Jewish Banquet
  7. The Pauline Churches' Banquet
  8. The Banquet in the Gospels
  9. The Banquet and Christian Theology