Many artists have sought to recreate the room and setting of the Messiah’s “Last Supper”—His final Passover meal withHis disciples. Did they get it right?In Luke 22:7-13, Jesus sent Peter and John into the city, wherea man (servant?) carrying water was to meet them. They wereto follow him into a house, and say to the master of the house,“The Teacher says to you, ‘Where is the
where Imay eat the Passover with My disciples?’” (v. 11). The manwould then show them a large furnished upper room wherethey were to make everything ready.What exactly was the “guest room”? What was the “upper room”? And why did the disciples specifically mention that“the Teacher” wanted the room? The answer to those ques-tions comes from a surprising source—a 1914
article authored by Dr. John D. Whiting. Dr. Whit-ing’s research showed that customs in the Holy Land hadchanged little since the time of Messiah.In his amazing article, “Village Life in the Holy Land,” Dr.Whiting describes the typical village house. One-third of thehouse was built as a shelter for the owner’s animals. Outside,open stairs led to what was described as the “upper room,” builtabout 8-10 feet above the ground. This upper roomoccupied the remaining two-thirds of the home, andwas where the family lived.Within every village there was one upper roomthat served as a guest chamber. It was normally thesocial center of town where men of the village con-gregated to share the latest news and drink coffee.When visitors came to town, they availed them-selves of the guest chamber. Local residents took turns providing food and other amenities; a servantwas hired to look after the facilities, and keep track of whose turn it was to provide for the guests. Thetype of food supplied reflected the relative impor-tance of the guest. Ordinary travelers were giveneggs, bread, and olives; more distinguished visi-tors were offered roasted chickens. A truly impor-tant visitor or group of men was provided with alamb or goat, as well as barley for their horses. Thenext time you try to visualize the “upper room”picture this rather than DaVinci’s painting.Note: It’s not likely that Mary Magdalene was presentin the upper room with Jesus and His disciples (con-trary to what author Dan Brown of the
would have us believe). According to Dr. Whiting’sresearch, guest rooms were available to men only. If women were part of the group, the group would goinstead to the village square, and wait to be offeredlodging or facilities in a private home.
THE UPPER ROOM
by Georgia Heisler
A pre-1914 American Colony photograph of a village guestchamber in Palestine. This photograph, as well as hundredsof others capturing life in the Middle East from the late 19thcentury to the early 20th century, was donated by G. Eric andEdith Matson to the Library of Congress.
At the Israel Museum, a scalemodel recreates the city of Jerusalem as it would haveappeared in AD 66. Note the housewith open stairs leading to anupper room—similar to the villageguesthouse photographed byAmerican Colony photographersalmost 1,900 years later.
R. A. Higbee