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Here's What Historians Think It Would Have Been Like To Be At The Last Supper

Updated November 5, 2019 60.2k views14 items

We know what happened at the Last Supper based on the gospel accounts, but what was it like to be at the meal? What did Jesus and the apostles eat? Was Mary Magdalene there? Was it different than a typical meal? Scholars keep finding more evidence of Jesus' life, and archeological evidence seemingly supports many biblical stories. The Last Supper, one of the most important meals in the Bible, stands out as a turning point where Jesus revealed that one of his apostles would betray him.

The Last Supper also helps date the Crucifixion, but the gospels contradict each other on when the meal took place. Though many artists depict the Last Supper scene, scholars continue to uncover new information. Here are all the Last Supper facts about the meal, including a debate over whether or not it occurred at all. 

Photo:
  • Photo: Leonardo da Vinci / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Last Supper Probably Didn't Take Place At A Large Table With Chairs

    Most paintings of the Last Supper, like Leonardo da Vinci's famous rendition, show the apostles sitting at a long, large table. But Italian archaeologists Generoso Urciuoli and Marta Berogno claim those images are wrong. Using Biblical texts, ancient Roman descriptions, and catacomb paintings, Urciuoli and Berogno argue the meal wouldn't have taken place at such a table.

    Instead, the apostles likely had their meal while sitting on cushions around a low-set table. 

  • Photo: Petter Bergström / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Apostles Definitely Ate Bread

    Jesus used many bread metaphors. The gospels describe him feeding 5,000 people with minimal food, including five bread loaves; another time, he called himself the bread of life. And at the Last Supper, the Gospel of John notes Jesus accused Judas of betrayal with bread. 

    In John 13:26, Jesus says he knows which of his Apostles will betray him: "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." After dipping the bread, Jesus gives it to Judas.

  • Photo: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    They Might Have Had Lamb Stew

    What did Jesus and the apostles eat at the Last Supper? The gospels directly mention bread and wine, but not much else. Scholars Generoso Urciuoli and Marta Berogno researched to find out the Last Supper's menu.

    Urciuoli concluded the meal almost certainly included lamb and a bean stew called cholent. The men likely also ate olives with herbs and pistachios. 

  • Photo: Giacomo Raffaelli/Alberto Fernandez Fernandez / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The Men Likely Ate Without Utensils

    Jesus and the apostles might not have used spoons or forks at the Last Supper. In fact, modern utensils supposedly didn't exist at all. Food rested on the table in a communal bowl. Men reached in with their hands or pieces of bread. Diners also occasionally used bread as spoons and plates.

    The Last Supper likely prominently featured bread, an essential part of the Hebrew diet.