Jesus, Sinners, And Table Fellowship -- By: Craig Blomberg

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 19:1 (NA 2009)
Article: Jesus, Sinners, And Table Fellowship
Author: Craig Blomberg

Jesus, Sinners, And Table Fellowship

Craig Blomberg

Denver Seminary

Author’s note: This article was originally commissioned before I agreed to deliver the Moore College Lectures for 2004, which formed the basis for my Contagious Holiness: Jesus’ Meals with Sinners (New Studies in Biblical Theology 19; Leicester: Apollos / Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005). Health issues precluded me from preparing the article on time, and, when the deadline for the article was subsequently moved back by three full years, it was unavoidable that the book would precede the article in publication. Nevertheless, I wrote this piece as a separate essay in its own right, even though it was based on much of the same research as the book was. I have also updated bibliographic references in a number of places. I would like to dedicate this article to Michelle Stinson, my former student and research assistant, now teaching at Simpson College in Redding, CA. Her theses on meals in both testaments during her M.A. and Ph.D. studies, coupled with her passion for the potential of meals in the contemporary Christian life, have kept me interested in this topic far longer than might otherwise have been the case.

I would like to thank the IBR Historical Jesus Study Group for their invaluable comments and interaction with me on an earlier draft of this essay. I must similarly thank my research assistant, Scott Moore, for tracking down a large number of supplementary sources, both ancient and modern, that those comments necessitated, and for Jonathan Waits for putting the manuscript into the format of the SBL Handbook of Style.

Until recently, Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners has formed part of the bedrock of the authentic Jesus tradition, even among scholars who doubt the historicity of a substantial portion of the Synoptic Gospels. This consensus has been challenged by several recent studies, and Jesus’ meals have been likened more to Greco- Roman symposia than to anything likely in early first-century Jewish Galilee. This article responds to both of these issues by applying the criterion of double dissimilarity and double similarity to the major, relevant Synoptic texts and argues both for their authenticity and for their distinctiveness from symposia.

Key Words: historical Jesus, meals with sinners, table fellowship, symposia, double dissimilarity, double similarity criterion

Until quite recently, a broad cross-section of NT scholars agreed that Jesus’ intimate association over meals with the notoriously wicked of his world formed one of the most historically reliable motifs in the canonical Gospels. In the 1990s, J. D. Crossan and N. T. Wright, theological sparring partners on numerous other scholarly issues, ...

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