Jesus of Nazareth 10

Jesus of Nazareth HW 10
Paul Fischer
Dean Brady
Aug. 4, 2010

Paul was beheaded by either the Roman Emperor Nero or his prefects c. 64 AD. How he got Last Supper stories and who gave them to him is critical to determining if his account his accurate. Because he would have been in contact with, and ultimately was martyred with Christians who knew Jesus (such as Peter, who Nero crucified), the possibility that at least parts of the tradition of the Last Supper are authentic.

First, to look at the role that Paul played in the founding of the Christian Church, that can help the reader understand what incentive he had for telling the story of the Last Supper. The early Christian movement was thinly spread out across the Roman Empire, so Paul’s preaching of unity would have been critical to ensuring that those first churches remained together (Corinthians 10:16-7). Jesus did not found Christianity, contrary to popular belief, it was Paul’s work opening up the religion to Gentiles (Gal. 5) that culminated in the conversion of the Roman Empire, and eventually the Emperor Constantine himself.
One of the key tools early Christians used in finding converts was the dinner party. As pedantic as it sounds, one of the greatest appeals of Christianity to the pagans is that there aren’t dietary restrictions. This is in contrast to Judaism, wherein Kosher laws are among the strictest of major religions, and are actively enforced. Paul would have been eager to draw on this Christian advantage by depicting Jesus himself flouting Jewish rules and eating with people of questionable character (Mk.14 ///). For this reason, we can consider the level authenticity in the details probably low.
That there was a last supper, during which Jesus knew he was being hunted for, and it was just a matter of time before the Romans closed in on him, or one of his own betrayed him, is indubitable. What isn’t as certain is that that supper was particularly special, or abnormal, as  suggested in the Gospels and Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Furthermore, it seems that he would have used the dinner party, like the Pharisees, rather often as a religious form. Unlike the Pharisees, of course, Jesus invited “bad” people and his teachings were radically different in regard to redemption and charity.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the Last Supper is depicted as distinctly normal, but marked by the introduction of rituals, and of course Jesus prophesies his own death. In Matthew, however, the entire narrative mood suggests that the meeting is unusual and important, that the followers are going to be shown a new part of the Kingdom of Heaven, complete with more teachings and observance of Torah (probably authentic, Peter claimed Jesus was kosher in the last supper, while Paul emphasized the importance of dropping the archaic Jewish law).

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