About the Seminar

Publications of the Seminar (coming soon)

Seminar Presentations

Members of the Seminar

Photo Descriptions 


About the Seminar

". . . it had been their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of an ordinary, harmless kind" (Pliny, Letters 10.96, describing the meetings of Christians in Bithynia, ca. 98 C.E.) 

This ongoing seminar within the Society of Biblical Literature explores meals as a window into social and religious life in the Greco-Roman world and as a pivotal consideration in understanding early Christianity and Judaism. 


Publications of the Seminar

The first volume of papers connected with the seminar is now forthcoming with Palgrave Press (more information to follow).

Seminar Presentations and Seminar History (since 2002)


Session 1: Rethinking Last Supper/Lord’s Supper in the New Testament

THESES: Rethinking Last Supper/Lord's Supper in the New Testament (prepared by Matthias Klinghardt and Dennis E. Smith)

Susan Marks, Presiding

Dennis E. Smith, "Rethinking Last Supper/Lord's Supper I"

Matthias Klinghardt, "Rethinking Last Supper/Lord's Supper II"

Respondents: Angela Standhartinger, Jae Won Lee, Carly Daniel-Hughes

Session 2: Toward a Profile of Eucharistic Origins

THESES: Toward a Profile of Eucharistic Origins (prepared by Andrew McGowan and Lillian Larsen)

Willi Braun, Presiding

Andrew McGowan, "A Profile of Eucharistic Origins I: Symposia, Sustenance, and Sacrifice"

Lillian Larsen, "A Profile of Eucharistic Origins II: Monks, Meals, and Meanings"

Respondents: Matthias Klinghardt, Carly Daniel-Hughes, Hal Taussig

Session 3: The Table as a Generative Locus for Social Formation in Early Judaism

Hal Taussig, Presiding

Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, "The Table and Early Judaism I"

Susan Marks, "The Table and Early Judaism II"

Jordan Rosenblum, "The Table and Early Judaism III"

Respondents: Judith Hauptman, Dennis Smith, Nancy Evans


Session 1: Book Review - Hal Taussig's In the Beginning Was the Meal: Social Experimentation and Early Christian Identity

Susan Marks, Presiding

Panelists / respondents: Dennis E. Smith, Angela Standhartinger, Matthias Klinghardt, Hal Taussig (response to the reviews)


Session 2: The Culture of Reclining: Corporeality, Sexuality, Intimacy

Philip A. Harland, Presiding

David L. Balch, "Artistic Representations of Corporeality, Sexuality, and Intimacy at Meals." Photos and photo descriptions now available in pdf.

Carly Daniel-Hughes, "Bodies at Rest, Bodies in Motion: Status, Corporeality, and Negotiations of Power at Ancient Meals"

Jennifer A. Glancy, "Notes on Early Christian Responses to Corporeality, Sexuality, and Intimacy in Dining Culture"

Ellen B. Aitken, "A Valentinian Response to the Culture of Reclining"

Lillian I Larsen, "Monastic Meals: Countering a Reclining Culture?"

Jordan D. Rosenblum, "Inclined to Decline Reclining?: Women, Corporeality, and Dining Posture in Early Rabbinic Literature"



Session 1: Slavery and Household Meals

Janet Walton, Presiding

Carolyn Osiek, "Slavery and Household Meals"

Nancy A. Evans, "Did Slaves Ever Recline at Meals?"

Carly Daniel-Hughes, "The Sex-Trade and Slavery at Meals"

Angela Standhartinger, "The Saturnalia in Greco-Roman Culture"

Lillian I. Larsen, "Early Christian Meals and Slavery"

Respondent: Jennifer Glancy

Session 2: Rabbinic Meals and Methodology

Dennis Smith, Presiding

Susan Marks, "Rabbinic Grace after Meals and Social Formation"

Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, "Performing Myth, Performing Midrash at Rabbinic Meals"



Session 1: Meals and Social Formation

Jae Won Lee, "Politics of Meals and Community in Solidarity: Paul’s politics of difference in Rom 14:1-15:13"

Hal Taussig, "Greco-Roman Meals and Performance of Identity: A Ritual Analysis"

Respondents: Dennis Smith, Matthias Klinghardt

Session 2: Rethinking Eucharistic Origins: The Work of Andrew McGowan

Andrew B. McGowan, "Rethinking Eucharistic Origins: Seven Theses on Eucharistic Practice"

Respondents: Dennis Smith, Angela Standhartinger

Discussion of works by Andrew B. McGowan on early Christian and Greco-Roman meals

Respondents: Angela Standhartinger, Dennis E. Smith



Session 1: Dining Space and the Culture of Greco-Roman Meals at Pompeii

David L. Balch, "Visual Representations in Pompeian Triclinia: What Do They Tell Us (if anything) about Practices and Values at Greco-Roman Meals?"

Carolyn Osiek, “What Kinds of Meals Did Julia Felix Have in Pompeii?” 

Respondent: Dennis Smith

Session 2: Women at Greco-Roman Wedding and Funerary Meals

Kathleen E. Corley, “Women, Funerary Meals, and Lament, and the Origins of Early Christian Meals.”

Susan Marks, “Present and Absent: Women at Greco-Roman Wedding Meals.”



Session 1: Meals in Greco-Roman Associations 

Richard S. Ascough, “Forms of Commensality in Greco-Roman Associations.”

Respondent:  Matthias Klinghardt

 Philip A. Harland, “Culturally Transgressive Banquets in Greco-Roman Associations: Imagination and Reality.”

Respondent: Dennis E. Smith


Session 2: Women at Greco-Roman Meals

Ellen B. Aitken, “Remembering and Remembered Women in Greco-Roman Meals.”

Respondent:  Susan Marks 

Angela Standhartinger, “Women in Early Christian Meal Gatherings: Discourse and Reality.”

Respondent:  Hal Taussig 



Deciphering an Ancient Meal: The Therapeutae as a Test Case (Consultation session) 

Ellen B. Aitken, “Singing at Meals Among the Therapeutae.”

Willi Braun, “Philo, Feasts, and Philosophy: The Therapeutae for Example.” 

Matthias Klinghardt, “The Therapeutae’s Dance.”

Andrew McGowan, “The Food of the Therapeutae: A Thick Description.”

 Hal Taussig, “Ritual Perfection and/or Literary Idealization in Philo’s On the Contemplative Life and Other Greco-Roman Symposia.”


Defining a Typology for the Study of Meals in the Greco-Roman World (Consultation)

Dennis E. Smith, “The Greco-Roman Banquet as a Social Institution.”

Matthias Klinghardt, “The Typology of the Community Meal.”

Respondents: Ellen B. Aitken, Willi Braun, Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, Andrew B. McGowan


Meals in the Greco-Roman World: Defining a Research Field (Consultation)

Dennis E. Smith, “Meals and Christian Origins.”

Andrew B. McGowan, “Meals and Eucharistic Origins.”

Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, “Meals and Jewish Studies.”

Kathleen E. Corley, “Women and Meals.”

Hal Taussig, “Meals and Ritual Studies.”

L. Michael White, “Meals and Archeology.” 

Members of the Seminar

Steering Committee
Ellen Aitken (McGill University, Montreal)
Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus (Wheaton College)
Matthias Klinghardt (Technische Universitaet, Dresden, Germany)
Susan Marks (New College, Florida)
Andrew McGowan (Trinity College, University of Melbourne)
Dennis E. Smith (Phillips Theological Seminary)
Angela Standhartinger (University of Marburg, Germany)
Hal Taussig (Union Theological Seminary)

Other Members
Richard Ascough (Queens Theological College, Kingston, Ontario)
David Balch (Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary)
Willi Braun (University of Alberta)
Kathleen Corley (University of Wisconsin)
Carly Daniel-Hughes (Concordia University, Montreal)
Arthur Dewey (Xavier University)
Nancy Evans (Wheaton College)
Jennifer Glancy (University of Richmond)
Philip Harland (York University, Toronto)
Lillian Larsen (University of Redlands)
Jae Won Lee (McCormick Theological Seminary)
Carolyn Osiek (Brite Divinity School, TCU)
Jordan Rosenblum (University of Wisconsin at Madison)
Janet Walton (Union Theological Seminary) 

Photo Descriptions

In order of appearance:
  • Funerary relief with banquet scene from Kyzikos, now in the British Museum (CIG 3684, Smith cat. no. 736; photo by Phil Harland)
  • Vase depicting meal scene,  from the museum at Rhodes (photo by Dennis Smith)
  • Mosaic of lobster and fish from Populonia,  near Rome (ca. 100 CE), now in the British Museum; photo by Phil)
  • Parthenon metope from Athens depicting the brawl of the Lapiths and Centaurs in connection with a marriage banquet, now in the British Museum (photo by Phil)
  • Dining room (triclinium) in the meeting-place of the builders' guild at Ostia (photo by Phil)
  • Mosaic of fruit basket and fish from Carthage (first to third century CE), now in the British Museum (photo by Phil)
  • Funerary monument depicting a husband and wife at a meal, now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum (fourth century BCE; photo by Phil)
  • Meeting-place and dining hall of the "dancing cowherds" devoted to Dionysos at Pergamum (photo by Phil)
  • Relief from Parnormos (near Kyzikos) depicting members of an association reclining for a meal while being entertained, now in the British Museum (GIBM IV.2 1007; photo by Phil)


Copyright notice:

The copyright of all photos is owned by the individual photographer as named in the photo descriptions, and photos are used here with permission.  Photos  may not be reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.