Date of Submission
The aim of this thesis is to show how in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus and the early church relied on food and hospitality provided in homes to propagate the mission of bringing the good news of the kingdom of God to Israel, and subsequently to Gentiles. Secondly, in Luke-Acts provision of meals in homes was also a means of serving Christ and one another through table ministry. These two factors of mission and ministry in Luke through domestic hospitality can provide theological impetus for contemporary Christian communities to think and reflect more intentionally regarding food and hospitality in their own contexts.
Though research and study into the various aspects of food have advanced in recent years through various disciplines, theological research has not been so generous in its handling of food. Although food preparation and cooks have been historically ignored by scholars, it is argued that hospitality is best expressed in the sharing of food. A definition of hospitality that sees its normal and natural expression through the sharing of meals is posited, rather than being defined as “welcoming strangers”. Meals are universal “cultural sites” that enable human formation and deepen bonds with others. Food needs to be taken more seriously in the theological enterprise, as does considering food as theology.
The Hebrew Bible, ancient Near East, Greco-Roman banquet customs, and intertestamental Jewish literature provide the cultural and historical backdrop for Luke’s Gospel. And as such, an engagement with how food and hospitality was regarded within these texts and cultures is examined. Regarding the Hebrew Bible, it will be shown that food and meals played a significant, if not central, role in Israel’s covenant identity with Yahweh, and with one another. Special attention is given to whether Jewish groups in this period, as well as Luke’s Gospel, were influenced or not by the Greco-Roman banquet tradition of the symposium. The Greco-Roman Symposium has been offered by scholars as a theory for the basis of Jesus’ dining events in Luke, however, this theory was rejected for a number of reasons.
The definition of mission and ministry within the context of Luke-Acts is outlined, and the pre-resurrection domestic meal scenes of the Lukan Jesus are analysed with a narrative theological and socio-scientific approach. The Last Supper, or Eucharist, is deliberately avoided for numerous reasons; one being that the initial remembrance of this event was celebrated within the context of actual domestic meals. Special note of how Jesus acts at table, as well as critical questions concerning whether the author of Luke is using hospitality as a key motif, are explored. This Lukan analysis demonstrates how the mission of Jesus was aided in these domestic settings. Mission in Luke-Acts reflects the actual domestic location of the early house churches Luke was addressing. Through the domestic meal scenes, Luke gives Jesus primacy whenever he is at table and by doing so provides instruction to the banquet communities that are gathering around meals to read/hear the message of Jesus. The διακονία of the women who serve Jesus at table is presented favourably by Luke as a way of affirming this ministry in the propagation of the mission of Jesus and the early church.
After briefly placing mission in a contemporary context, the notion of invitation in Luke-Acts is discussed with regards to how it may be useful regarding mission in the contemporary secular and pluralistic context in which Western churches find themselves. Secondly, regarding ministry, the sacramental nature of “mundane” work such as food preparation is considered by engaging with the ideas of French philosopher Simone Weil. And finally, a dialogue with a number of authors who have written about the practical application of hospitality for the contemporary context and Christian communities will be engaged in. This heuristic engagement is viewed as a theological “round-table” discussion in the spirit of hospitality, in which a dialogue with these authors, through reflection on the findings of the analyses of Lukan meal scenes, is undertaken. By reflecting theologically on the motif of hospitality in the mission and ministry of Jesus and the early church in Luke-Acts, the mission and ministry of contemporary churches can be informed and reformed in their own expressions of hospitality.
School of Theology
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
Faculty of Theology and Philosophy
Tuohy, N. J. (2012). While they were eating: Lukan mission through domestic hospitality and ministry as table-service, and implications for the contemporary church (Doctoral thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from http://researchbank.acu.edu.au/theses/405