The new Testament: banquets and food

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The New Testament is an anthology, a collection of Christian works written in the common Greek language of the first century, at different times during the first and the second centuries of the Christian era, by various writers, who were early disciples of Jesus. It is the second major part of the Christian Bible, the first part being the Old Testament, based on the Hebrew Bible. Christians regard both the Old and the New Testaments together as sacred scripture. The New Testament consists of four narratives of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, called “gospels“; a narrative of the Apostles‘ deeds in the early church, called the “Acts of the Apostles“, and probably written by the same writer as the Gospel of Luke; twenty-one letters, often called “epistles“, written by various authors and an Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, which is a book of prophecy.

The New Testament has frequently accompanied the spread of Christianity around the world, it has influenced religious, philosophical, and political movements and left an indelible mark on literature, music and art.

Painters of all the ages have represented different episodes of the New Testament which are generally commemorated by Christians, such as the Annunciation (the celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus), the Nativity of Christ, the stoning of Saint Stephen (traditionally venerated as the first martyr of Christianity on the 26th of December), the Circumcision of Christ ( which, according to the Jewish tradition, is eight days after his birth and it’s celebrated by the Christians on the 1st of January ), the Resurrection of Christ ( celebrated on Easter Sunday), the Assumption ( celebrated every year on August the 15th and commemorating the rising of Mary to heaven before the decay of her body). Besides these, a lot of episodes about Christ’s life and miracles have become subject for paintings. According to the New Testament, banquets and feasts were organized for the entertainment of guests.These meals were in the days of Christ usually called “suppers,” after the custom of the Romans, and generally took place towards the close of the day. It was usual to send a second invitation to those who had been already invited. When the whole company was assembled, the master of the house shut the door with his own hands and the guests were refreshed with water and fragrant oil. A less frequent custom was that of supplying each guest with a robe to be worn during the feast. The guests were placed in order according to the age or to the rank they held. As spoons and knives and forks are a modern invention, and were also unknown in the East, the hands alone were necessarily used, and were dipped in the dish, which was common to two or more guests. The hands of the guests were usually cleaned by being rubbed on bread, the crumbs of which fell to the ground, and were the portion for dogs or were sent to poorer friends.

As for the food, fish was a big part of a Jew’s diet. They rarely ate meat, except for on special occasions ( mostly goat, lamb, pigeons ). Bread was essential: women usually used to make it at home, the poor generally ate bread made of barley, while the rich enjoyed bread made of wheat. It was custom for bread to be broken and not cut. Their diet might include different kinds of nuts, such as almonds and pistachios, milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, honey, eggs, olive oil. They also ate vegetables like cucumbers, lettuce, garlic and leek, and fresh fruit like grapes, apricots, figs and melons; they used to drink wine. On special occasions they fried food and made cheese and potato pancakes, fried fruit and fried doughnuts.

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