THE LAST SUPPER AND

CRITICAL HISTORIOGRAPHY

__________________

A Paper
Presented to
Dr. Darrell L. Bock
Dallas Theological Seminary
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In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for NT407N

__________________

By
Michael Metts
December 7, 2012

THE LAST SUPPER AND
CRITICAL HISTORIOGRAPHY1
Two Hermeneutical Aspects of Historiography2

1

The author of this paper is greatly indebted to the lengthy essay of I. Howard Marshall, “The Last
Supper,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence,
ed. by Darrell L. Bock and Robert L. Webb (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010), pp. 481-588.
2
It is this thinker's conviction that modern historical-critical methods (= historiography), though not
without utility for dialog across academic disciplines, remain prejudiced against what is often said to be outside or
beyond the scope of the historian, i.e. anything but causal and scientific naturalism. In this respect, then, modern
historical-critical methods have remained mostly unchanged since Ernst Troeltsch, perhaps longer. There are three
principles involved: (1) Probability; which is the notion that knowledge is probable at best, never certain. (2)
Analogy; indicating that the universal laws governing nature remain unchanged. And (3) correlation; meaning the
complex and holistic interrelatedness of history. Troeltsch's historical-critical methodology “became the tool which
was to dominate the quest for the historical Jesus for 150 years.” This is indubitably “the application of the scientific
paradigm to history. History itself came to be redefined as a science, which should proceed scientifically by
developing hypotheses and discovering laws which would have explanatory power analogous to that of hypotheses
and laws in the physical sciences” James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, Christianity in the Making Vol. 1 (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003) 26-27. Emphasis belongs to Dunn.
This scientific prejudice unquestionably frustrates the theological (= God) in the thoroughly
historiographical concerned discipline of biblical studies. The following scholars share similar concerns: Without
directly tying historical-criticism to theology, Dunn himself questions whether or not an historian can recognize the
novum: “Yet one cannot help wondering whether the last two principles (analogy and correlation) are not inevitably
too restrictive. In particular, can they recognize the novum, the genuinely new?” (70). (We will use Dunn's term
frequently throughout this paper.) N. T. Wright correctly observes, in his customary rhetorical flourish, that
historians “should be prepared to give up the false historical modesty that has made so many scholars shy of
attributing theological thinking to Jesus himself.” And, reflecting on recent historical Jesus works, further writes that
“Jesus must remain, it seems, an unreflective, instinctive, simplistic person, who never thought through what he was
doing in the way that several of his contemporaries and followers did. I submit that, historically, the boot is far more
likely to be on the other foot.” Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God Vol.
2 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 478-79. See Wright also (and Stephen Neill) in The Interpretation of the New
Testament: 1861-1986 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 366: “An understanding of history which is
incompatible with a Christian doctrine of revelation is bound to land the New Testament scholar in grave
perplexities; a true theological understanding of history would not of itself solve any New Testament problems, but
it would, so to speak, hold the ring within which a solution can be found.” In their work Early Christianity and Its
Sacred Literature (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000), p. 14, scholars Lee Martin McDonald and Stanley E. Porter,
though more approving of historical-criticism than others, grant that: “Traditional Christianity argues that Jesus was
not simply just another man but in fact the Son of God, unique in every way, and that it is therefore improbable that
death should contain such a person. Against this line of reasoning is the complete inability of the historian to
establish Jesus' uniqueness through historical methodology, any more than his resurrection from the grave. There are
no know categories of thought available that enable the historian to get behind the faith statements of the early NT
writers and demonstrate that Jesus was in fact, 'Lord,' 'Christ,' 'Son of Man,' or 'Son of God.'” And Joel Green states:
“Historical study alone cannot speak to such questions as whether Jesus of Nazareth is both Lord and Christ,
whether Jesus' resurrection signaled the restoration of God's people and the ushering in of the new era, or any of a
number of other claims that are central to the witness of the Gospels and Acts.” “Which Conversation Shall We
Have?” in “Behind” the Text: History and Biblical Interpretation, Scripture and Hermeneutics Series Vol. 4, ed. by
Craig Bartholomew, et al. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 148. One page earlier Green writes, “Historians are
concerned with what they and their communities deem to be significant among the many events that might have
been recorded, and in the relationship, among the events that are recounted. If this 'significance' is parsed
theologically, this does not make the consequent narrative any less 'historical'.” And, “a via media [middle way]
exists, which recognizes that fairness and honesty, truth-seeking, critical sifting of evidence and other allegiances

1

2
Hermeneutics of Suspicion3
Many biblical scholars operating from important skeptical presuppositions and
historical-reconstructionist methods4 sometimes dismiss a biblical account, or the event it attests,
on the grounds of synoptic inconsistencies or other common divergences. And fewer narratives
of biblical studies have received more of this skeptical treatment than Jesus' Last Supper. Certain
of these historians are presented in a recent essay by I. Howard Marshall and include the

and practices necessary for and appropriate to intellectual community are not of necessity competitive with or
contradicted by such theological commitments.” Each of these quoted NT scholars show concern regarding the
inability of the historical-critical method to allow for the theological, or novum.
3
The phrase “hermeneutic of suspicion” is a term coined by Paul Ricœur and derives from the field of
Liberationist hermeneutics and political theology. Though the term applies primarily to Marxist or Feminist
hermeneutics because of their deep ideological suspicions of traditional doctrine, its semantic usefulness well suits
the critical presuppositions governing historical-critical methods. An example of this use of the term can be found in
Scott W. Hahn's essay “At the School of Truth,” in The Bible and the University, Scripture and Hermeneutics Series
Vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007) 87.
4
Though sometimes he mistakenly sees historical-criticism as simply an alternative method free from
the constraints of dogmatic authority, in his history of eighteenth and nineteenth century hermeneutics book, Hans
W. Frei states that, “some scholars thought that critical reconstruction of the reported events constituted the subject
matter of narrative texts.” The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century
Hermeneutics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974) 9. The point, then, is that there exists a form of
historiography that replaces narrative meaning with a critically reconstructed history in its stead and this history is
then presented as more truthful than the material witnesses (cf. also p. 223). Frei's book provides a helpful prehistory for understanding historical-criticism in more recent centuries. For a well-written, though brief, treatment of
historical-criticism in relation to the philosophical turns of the twentieth century, see Craig G. Bartholomew,
“Introduction,” in “Behind” the Text: History and Biblical Interpretation, 1-16. A helpful supplement to Frei which
more clearly makes the connection between Enlightenment positivism and its continuing influence on the prejudiced
methodologies of historical-criticism would be Dunn's careful work relating the discussion to historical Jesus studies
in Jesus Remembered, pp. 17-97. See also Alvin Plantinga's history of and assessment of historical-criticism (though
he prefers the terminology “Historic Biblical Criticism” = HBC); “Two (or More) Kinds of Scripture Scholarship,”
in “Behind” the Text: History and Biblical Interpretation, 19-57. See also Craig S. Keener's Introduction, The
Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009) xxxi: “Yet these skeptical scholars have often
uncritically accepted sources or hypotheses on far less evidence than the reports available in our traditional
Gospels.” For the scope of the historical-critical enterprise see also Robert L. Webb “The Historical Enterprise and
Historical Jesus Research,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context
and Coherence, ed. by Darrell L. Bock and Robert L. Webb (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010),
pp. 39-93. And in a thorough treatment of historical-criticism and theology, Peter Stuhlmacher concludes, “It is
historically imperative that we resist the hypothetical unravelling of the New Testament tradition into a multiplicity
of single strands, solitary communities, and isolated theologies which can no longer be correlated.” Historical
Criticism and the Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Toward a Hermeneutic of Consent, trans. Roy A.
Harrisville (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1977) 90.

3
scholarship of the Jesus Seminar, and the independent work of scholars John Dominic Crossan,
Burton L. Mack, Dennis E. Smith and John W. Riggs.5
Only a hermeneutic of suspicion is capable of speaking in terms of a reconstructed
history behind Scripture since it presupposes that a given narrative is untruthful and that other
ostensive events not described within the text are actually responsible for giving rise to it. While
this paper will adopt the tools and criteria of the historical-critical method, the frequently
demonstrated prejudices of this methodology will not be adopted.
Hermeneutics of Care and Trust
The higher-criticisms of skeptical historiography6 have in recent decades been
“adopted and adapted by evangelicals” and “purged of these presuppositions.”7 In the field of
historical Jesus studies evangelical scholars are able to co-opt these methods, remove their
theological prejudices, and both dialog and compete with the university. By showing more
sympathy for their subject material skeptical historians can avoid unnecessarily dismissive
judgments or prejudicial conclusions until a careful hermeneutically self-conscious historical
examination has taken place.

5

I Howard Marshall, “The Last Supper,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 506, 486.
“Some of the scholars cited above (e.g., Riggs) actually deny that there was a last meal of Jesus that corresponded
with the description of it in the Gospels and Paul rather than simply claiming that we cannot prove its historicity.”
6

These higher-criticisms are “source criticism,” “form criticism,” “redaction criticism” and “tradition
criticism.” Thorough definitions of these criticisms can be found in Darrell L. Bock, Studying the Historical Jesus: A
Guide to Sources and Methods (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 153-203; R. L. Schultz, “Higher
Criticism,” in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd ed., ed. by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker
Academic, 2001) p. 554-56; Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: W. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999) pp. 7-16. On the waning influence of higher-criticisms in much recent research see
Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 87. This paper will not treat narrative criticisms since they are less associated
with the concerns of critical history.
7

R. L. Schultz, “Higher Criticism,” in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 555.

4
Further, the portrayal of historical context need not terminate in a reconstructed
narrative competing with the Scriptures themselves.8 It seems far more credible that, in order to
avoid such a reconstruction by taking note of the theological prejudices that some scholars have
observed,9 a critical-historiography which instead explains the theological, or the novum, rather
than offering an alternative for it, is the preferred method for bringing historical research nearer
to Jesus himself, his audience, his apostles, and the very real historical fact that they each firmly
held to belief in a self-revealing God (whether the historian does or does not).10
The Criteria of Authenticity
and Oral Tradition
The criticisms of authenticity for studying the historical Jesus are sub-divided into
primary and secondary criteria by Robert Webb, though his arrangement seems to favor an
atomistic historical approach.11 The primary criteria are said to be (1) multiple attestation, (2)
multiple forms, (3) dissimilarity, (4) embarrassment and (5) rejection and execution. Secondary

8

John Dominic Crossan is a good example of an exaggerated literary-critical historiography and a prime
example of reconstructive history. He may also be guilty of methodological equivocation in his work The Historical
Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992), because although he
shows a preference for the sayings gospels or traditions (Q and Thomas), the historical context for Jesus' life
Crossan uses to authenticate these gospels comes from the biblical Gospel narratives he has discredited. But how
can you use the historical narrative of an invalidated source to validate the authenticity of other sources? Cf. Luke
Timothy Johnson's criticism in Crossan, et al. The Historical Jesus: Five Views, ed. by James K. Beilby and Paul R.
Eddy (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009) 142.
9

See the discussion in Tom Holmén's essay, “A Theologically Disinterested Quest? On the Origins of
the 'Third Quest' for the Historical Jesus,” Studia Theologica 55 (2001): 175-197. Though, among the historical
Jesus scholars he engages, the much championed notion of “theological disinterest” is shown by Holmén to be just
as suspect as the theologically persuaded findings of more conservative histories.
10

See also Stewart E. Kelly's essay, “Miracle, Method, and Metaphysics: Philosophy and the Quest for
the Historical Jesus,” in Trinity Journal 29NS (2008): 52-57. Is historical-criticism “limited to naturalistic
explanations, or is it open to the possibility of divine action in the world?” (56).
11

Webb “The Historical Enterprise and Historical Jesus Research,” in Key Events in the Life of the
Historical Jesus, 60-75.

5
criteria are (1) coherence,12 (2) Aramaic traces, (3) Palestinian environment and (4) inherit
ambiguity.
While this paper will carefully apply a number of these criteria to the Last Supper of
Jesus, we will not take that route which is frequently taken by some NT scholars and focus
primarily on the textual nature of his sayings, as though any living oral tradition immediately
ceased at the publication of Mark. In this regard the reader of this essay will recognize the
author's indebtedness to James Dunn for an appreciation of the liveliness of the tradition
following the events of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, and the traditions oracular nature both
prior to and after the writing of NT Scriptures. Dunn wisely points out the nature of modern
historical-critical Jesus scholarship and its propensity for singularly treating Christian Scripture
as layered and stratigraphic literature. He states:
. . . the assumption, almost innate to those trained within western (that is, literary) culture,
that the Synoptic traditions have to be analysed in terms of a linear sequence of written
editions, where each successive version can be conceived only as an editing of its
predecessor, simply distorts critical perception and skews the resultant analysis. The
transmission of the narrative tradition has too many oral features to be ignored.13
As a proven alternative this paper will instead make use of the work of NT scholar
Kenneth Bailey and what he calls “informal, controlled oral tradition” as the appropriate means
of understanding Last Supper divergences in the early apostolic traditions;14 though the textual

12

Though John P. Meier categorizes coherence as a primary criticism if used positively: “Criteria: How
Do We Decide What Comes from Jesus?” in The Historical Jesus in Recent Research, ed. James D. G. Dunn and
Scot McKnight (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2005) 134. But its accuracy, according to Meier, necessarily rests
upon other primary criticisms such as multiple attestation to first provide the database for cohering.
13

Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 223. Also, “Students of the Synoptic tradition must free themselves from
the assumption that variations between parallel accounts can or need be explained only in terms of literary
redaction.” See also the important oral criticisms of Darrell Bock in his treatment of form criticism, Studying the
Historical Jesus, 181-87: “However, other studies have argued that the roots and method of Jewish tradition would
have had a conserving effect on how texts were passed on orally.” Bock discusses the work of four scholars in
particular (1) Birger Gerhardsson, (2) Harold Reisenfeld, (3) Rainer Reisner, and (4) E. Earle Ellis (183 n.7).
14

K. E. Bailey, “Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels,” in Asia Journal of

6
nature of historical Jesus studies remains informative for this paper since if an understanding is
to be made of Jesus' words a historical context is rationally necessary. Bailey's research,
especially in the qualified historical work of Dunn, shows how oral traditions can have a fixed
center of meaning as well as flexibility in circumferential details.
Qualifying Bailey, Dunn, and Memory
Since much of the discussion of this paper rests on the work of Bailey and Dunn a
brief qualification of their work is necessary. The discussion of memory in historical Jesus
studies since Jesus Remembered has often taken a sociological and psychological turn which has
the unfortunate effect of making history rest upon the modern research of historically
disinterested disciplines. But the historian must first recognize that modern western times are not
very much like the oral societies of the first century Mediterranean world which necessarily
relied upon memory since events and information could not be stored digitally and literacy was
less common. Scholars Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd have pointed out the widening
gulf between the historian's optimistic views of how memory operated in classical times, and
how contemporary social sciences treat memory.15 Perhaps part of the reason for this widening
gulf is that orality was crucial and necessary in ancient times, while in modern times it is less so,

Theology 5 (1991):34-54. Bailey's work has found critical acceptance in both N. T. Wright's Jesus and the Victory of
God, 133 n.22, and, more particularly, in the work of James D. G. Dunn's Jesus Remembered, 205-210, esp. 209-10.
The main thrust of Jesus Remembered centers on disciple memory leading to oral traditions, eventuating in the
written gospels of the NT, complete with their literary divergences. This thesis is more credible than alternatives
because it provides the fluid foundation upon which the complexity of the divergent NT testimonies need if we are
to account for them, something pure literary dependence can resolve only through very exaggerated efforts. Further,
“The variations between different versions of the same story in the tradition do not indicate a cavalier attitude to or
lack of historical interest in the events narrated.” Rather, as Dunn states, “. . . the variations exemplify the character
of oral retelling.” Jesus Remembered, 222-23.
15

Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of
the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 280. See Keener's discussion, The Historical
Jesus of the Gospels, 468 n.6. The ancient Mediterranean world, according to Keener, was highly skilled in orality
since it was valued, out of necessity, much more than in modern western cultures (144-161).

7
since any desired information can be saved to a personal computer's hard-drive for retrieval at
any desired moment; such information need not be conserved only by the mind. Information in
the modern world is also much more abundant and therefore much more difficult to keep an
account. Lastly, NT scholar Richard Bauckham has considered recent social scientific work in
memory and concluded with nine points on how such research can complement the eyewitness
testimony of NT authors.16
Important Areas of Historical-Critical Interest
for the Last Supper
Generally most NT scholars recognize two different traditions of the Last Supper
grouped as follows: (a) Mark and Matthew and (b) Luke and Paul. A third text is often discussed,
(c) the Didache, though it provides its own discussion and difficulties. Fourthly considered is (d)
John's Gospel which presents chronological difficulties when examined in light of the synoptic
accounts. And fifthly recognized is the general question as to (e) the nature of the Last Supper
meal itself, whether Paschal, hellenistic, covenantal, or other. This paper will treat each of these
areas.
The Criteria of Authenticity
and the Last Supper
Multiple Attestation and Living Tradition. Since we have two different traditions
(1) Mark/Matthew and (2) Luke/Paul attesting the Last Supper of Jesus, the event does meet the
16

These nine factors are (1) Unique or unusual event; the uniqueness of gospel events certainly qualify
them for being memorable. (2) Salient or consequential event; the events were of huge personal significance for NT
authors. (3) Emotional involvement; the disciples of Jesus were not detached observers but participants, close to the
action, deeply affected by the events. (4) Vivid imagery. (5) Irrelevant detail; the absence of such details do not
disprove their witness, but rather indicates that these stories have already been made committed to oral formulas for
memory. (6) Point of view. (7) Dating; recollective memories rarely include dates since dates are not intrinsic to
experience. (8) Gist and details; Dunn's work focuses on this point quite a bit. And lastly, (9) frequent rehearsal.
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels As Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.
Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2006), 341-46.

8
important criteria of multiple attestation. And historical Jesus scholar Craig S. Keener breaks
down the two multiply-attested accounts and how (a) the cup, (b) the bread, (c) Jesus' body, (d)
Jesus' blood, (e) covenant and (f) eschatology17 are each doubly attested and therefore secure
elements of the tradition.18
Dunn explains the differences between the two traditions by defending their oracular
nature and the liveliness of tradition history. The two traditions, he states, are,
most obviously explained in terms neither of literary dependence, nor of one or other form
being more easily retrojected into Aramaic, but in terms of two slightly variant liturgical
practices. (. . .). Here again it would be somewhat farcical to assume that this tradition was
known to the various writers only as written tradition and only by hearing it read
occasionally from some written source. The more obvious explanation, once again, is that
these words were familiar within many/most early Christian communities because they
used them in their regular celebrations of the Lord's Supper; this was living oral tradition
before and after it was ever written down in semi-formal or formal documentation. Here too
it was a matter of fundamental tradition, the sort of tradition which Paul took care to pass
on to his newly formed churches (1 Cor. 11:23), the sort of tradition which gave these
churches their identity and by the performance of which they affirmed their identity (cf.
Again 1 Cor. 10:21). It was tradition remembered as begun by Jesus himself, and
remembered thus from as early as we can tell.19
Not only does Dunn demonstrate a sensible critical history and points out the certain liveliness of
these early Christian traditions, he has also succeeded in showing how oral traditions are able to
continue on after written ones and keep custody of the authentic tradition from confusion with
any competing pseudo-traditions.
Apostolic Custody and Hellenistic Provenance. One persistent question is whether
the Matthew/Mark account or the Luke/Paul account forms the basis of the tradition, sometimes

17

In Paul's account the meal anticipated the future coming of Christ (1 Cor. 11:26). In Mark the meal
prefigures the future kingdom banquet (Mark 14:25). Theissen and Merz also see an “eschatological prospect” in all
three Synoptics Gospels and 1 Corinthians, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, (Minneapolis: Fortress
Press, 1998), 415; Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, 363, further points
out the apocalyptic passages of the Didache's eucharistic sayings.
18

Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, 298-299.

19

Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 230. Emphasis original.

9
with the assumption that if indeed it was Paul, then the Lord's Supper20 is surely indebted to
hellenistic influences/provenance.21 But it is hard to see how some historians reach the
conclusion of a hellenistic provenance for such a considerably Jewish meal.22 Often their
conclusions rest on only a few proofs. However, by taking note of the context of controlled oral
performances,23 as Bailey has indicated above, any hellenistic provenance for NT literature
would necessarily prove untenable. Such oral control over the tradition is further reinforced by
the teacher/disciple relation of Jesus with his disciples, since traditions were especially more
accurate and guarded in such contexts, and perhaps more so in religious instruction.24 There is
also only a small window of opportunity for unorthodox mutations to occur within the Christian
tradition since written records of the tradition – of which the Last Supper was a part – were
committed to parchment no later than twenty years after Jesus' resurrection.25 And formal

20

“This [term] represents the actual term which Paul uses to describe the church's common meal in 1
Cor. 11:20” I. Howard Marshall, Last Supper and Lord's Supper (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,
1980), 15.
21

I am referring to the Jesus Seminar's preference for an Asia Minor provenance. See the Seminar's
publication, Robert W. Funk and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds of Jesus
(San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1998) 139-142. The Jesus Seminar dismisses Mark's Passover narrative as
invention, assuming a better historical background in hellenistic cultic practice. The Seminar also sees Mark's
mention Jesus' blood being “poured out” as a reference to the ancient cultic custom of libation, i.e., a drink poured
out as an offering to a deity. See the work of Seminar member Dennis E. Smith, From Symposium to Eucharist: The
Banquet in the Early Christian World (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2003); and Burton L. Mack, A Myth of
Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1988), 114-120, 298-304. But nowhere in the
classical record is a libation performed in a memorial meal context; the Seminar uses Socrates' drinking of hemlock
as an example, which was an event of golden-age Greece, or the fifth-century BC; so Marshall, “The Last Supper,”
in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 508. Marshall declares such aetiological myths to be a red-herring.
22

As we will see below, the formulaic eucharistic prayers of Didache 9 and 10 are unashamedly Jewish
and paschal. See Oskar Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers
Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002) 406-408.
23

“. . . the concept of performance allows a directness, even an immediacy of interaction, with a living
theme and core even when variously embroidered in various retellings.” Dunn Jesus Remembered, 249.
24

For an account of how memory operated in the Mediterranean world and in the context of disciples
and teachers, see Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, 147. See also Dunn's “Apostolic Custodian”
subheading in Jesus Remembered, 180-81.
25

This point was popularized by Martin Hengel in his famous and critical essay “Christology and New

10
apostolic oral performances were already in place as early as two years following the
resurrection of Jesus.26 In short, Paul and his carefully instructed Gentile and Jewish
congregation in Corinth – where Paul himself had spent much of his time – would have shown
more concern to preserve the authentic Christian tradition against any inauthentic or alien one.
Marshall writes,
. . . the church in Corinth was evangelized by Jewish Christians and consisted of a mix of
Jewish and Gentile Christians. The postulation of Gentile congregations that would have
followed purely pagan Hellenistic models without any restraining Jewish influence goes
against all the evidence.27
Skeptical historiography, then, appears to show too little appreciation for the interests and care of
the apostles to maintain custody of orthodox Christian teaching. And it is mistakenly judged
more likely that mutations in the apostolic tradition would have began almost as soon as they
were taught in Gentile contexts. Marshall concludes,
We were able to show that this proposed explanation is not only sheer speculation but also
that it goes against the evidence that establishes clearly the Pauline type of meal, which
recalls the Last Supper, as the earliest form known to us, and that shows the remoteness of
the possibility that the origins of the Christian meal are to be found in Hellenistic
symposia.28
The Criterion of (Double) Dissimilarity and Nova. This criticism has a long history
and has frequently been the focus of scholarly discussion. Internationally recognized former NT

Testament Chronology: A Problem in the History of Earliest Christianity,” in Between Jesus and Paul: Studies in the
Earliest History of Christianity (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003) 30-47. Hengel calls this dilemma a
“shortage of time” (31).
26

The argument is efficient: If (a) Paul's conversion occurred, as some historians think, in the early- to
mid-thirties AD, and if (b) Jesus' crucifixion is dated to AD 33, then (c) we are on solid footing to suppose that Paul
received this teaching shortly after his Damascus road revelation, “when he was catechized by believers in
Damascus at the time of his baptism, that is, in AD 34/35 (Acts 9:17-18),” Paul Barnett, Jesus and the Rise of Early
Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 182. This conclusion also rightly robs Paul of having
originated any Christian traditions (and any hellenistic provenance with him).
27

Marshall, “The Last Supper,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 507.

28

Marshall, “The Last Supper,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 577-78.

11
scholar Norman Perrin writes, “the earliest form of a saying we can reach may be regarded as
authentic if it can be shown to be dissimilar to characteristic emphases both of Judaism and of
the early Church.”29 And, in his carefully researched history of criteria, NT scholar Stanley E.
Porter writes,
. . . the development of the form-critical framework soon meant that any tradition that could
be shown to go back to the early Church was surely open to question regarding its
authenticity as originating with Jesus and his first followers; likewise, if the early Church
could not be relied upon, neither could the Jewish context of early Christianity to provide
genuinely authentic Jesus material. As a result, the criterion of dissimilarity, or, better,
double dissimilarity, as it was originally and has usually been formulated, was developed
and began to be utilized.30
However, the criterion's maxim of dissimilarity has now been reversed by several
historians to rightly state that whatever is similar to both Judaism and the early church increases
the authenticity of historical Jesus research.31 The history of this criterion serves as a good
example of skeptical historiography being purged of its unnecessary suspicion. The reverse
maxim of the reformulated criterion actually results in a more sensible and historically accurate
tool. Tom Holmén states,
What is beyond doubt is that recent research has indeed disclaimed the sentiment
which tended to detach Jesus from his Jewish matrix. Jesus is, on the contrary, now seen as
profoundly Jewish, and the proper way to study him accordingly is to view him within
Judaism.32

29

Webb, “The Historical Enterprise and Historical Jesus Research,” in Key Events in the Life of the
Historical Jesus, 63-64. The criterion itself was created by Ernst Käsemann at the dawn of the New Quest for the
historical Jesus, or the “Second Quest.”
30
Stanley E. Porter, The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical-Jesus Research: Previous Discussion and
New Proposals JSNTSS 191 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press Ltd. 2000), 70.
31
Robert Webb briefly surveys this criterion and its reformulation from the time of the Second to the
Third Quest, “The Historical Enterprise and Historical Jesus Research,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical
Jesus, 63.67. Among others, see N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 131-133, and Keener, The Historical
Jesus of the Gospels, 156-7.
32
Tom Holmén, “A Theologically Disinterested Quest? On the Origins of the 'Third Quest' for the
Historical Jesus,” 177. Holmén himself espouses a continuum approach which “stresses the importance of a
continuum between Judaism – Jesus – Christianity.” Webb, “The Historical Enterprise and Historical Jesus
Research,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 67; citing Holmén, “An Introduction of the Continuum
Approach,” in Jesus from Judaism to Christianity: Continuum Approaches to the Historical Jesus, LNTS 352, ed.

12
Coherence and Nova: Part One
The Last Supper was certainly colored by Paschal features, if it is not to be identified
as a Passover meal in essencia. Though the synoptic accounts present it as such,33 atomistic
historical readings have splintered the accounts over the issue, in some cases declaring that two
distinct meals/accounts have in fact been stitched together. Adela Yarbro Collins' suspicious
verdict over the composition of Mark 14, which indefensibly rests upon a single proof – namely,
Mark's change in terminology from the word “disciples” (μαθηταί) in vv. 12-16, to the more
theologically invested term “the Twelve” (οἱ δώδεκα) in vv. 17-21 – serves as an example of
continued literary-critical skepticism.34
How is a fair-minded historian to believe such a conclusion is not a non-sequitur? It
appears that historical-criticism is here guilty of a hermeneutic of suspicion or distrust, for Jesus
frequently refers to his followers in theological language normally identifying Israel. 35 Given
proper theological recognition of the Passover/Last Supper event, is it not more sensible to
suppose that Mark may have simply preferred a more theologically pregnant term? Perhaps this
is an occasion where the critical historian might better be served by simple theology, rather than
improbable, skeptical exegesis.

Tom Holmén (London: T&T Clark, 2007) 1-2.
33

“This is the unavoidable implication of the story of the preparation for the meal (Mark 14:12-16);
Luke records that at the meal Jesus spoke of eating 'this Passover' (Luke 22:15). (…). . . there are no features of the
meal in the Synoptic accounts which would be inappropriate in a paschal meal.” Marshall, “The Last Supper,” in
Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 542.
34

“These tensions support the conclusion that the evangelist composed 14:1-31 by joining previously
independent individual traditions.” Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark: A Commentary, Hermeneia – A Critical and
Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., by Harold W. Attridge (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 648. Collins
only offers a singular exegetical proof for this conclusion.
35

Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 277.

13
It will be primarily through the criteria of coherence that we situate the historicity of
the Last Supper within the Jewish Passover tradition. Coherence, against atomistic interpretive
practices, offers more explanatory power since it does not lose sight of establishing an entire
portrait. By using such a method we hope to achieve greater explanatory power and provide a
helpful corrective against the theologically prejudiced accounts of more skeptical historiography.
In constructing this coherentist account, we will also make use of Jesus' theologically invested
actions as much as his words. These new theological features, or nova, will help to sketch such
an account. There is an increasing appreciation among scholars of the symbol-laden and
prophetic-like actions of Jesus, such as his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and cleansing of the
temple, occurring just days prior to the Last Supper.36 We will return to the criteria of coherence
near the end of this essay.
Passover and NT Chronology37
Perhaps the most succinct way to state the problem of chronology is that while John
has Jesus being tried and going to the cross, the Synoptic Gospels have Jesus eating the Passover
with his disciples. Several theories have been put forward to harmonize the accounts, some
exaggerated, others more sensible. The particular verse of difficulty in the Synoptic accounts is

36

See Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, 432-36; also,
David Wenham, “How Jesus Understood the Last Supper: A Parable in Action,” Themelios 20.2 (1995):11-16.
37

For chronologies see Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Pub. House, 1977) 89; H. W. Hoehner, “Chronology,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B.
Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 120; Robert H. Stein
Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 200-201 (with
references to a Nisan 14 beginning of Passover in Josephus); Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The Last
Week: The Day-by-Day Account of Jesus's Final Week in Jerusalem (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2006)
110, 116-17, 120-130, 137, 145-153. For the official chronology of the Jewish festival see David Instone-Brewer,
Traditions of the Rabbis from the Era of the New Testament, Vol. 2A, Feasts and Sabbaths: Passover and Atonement
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011) 116-17.

14
Mark 14:12, since it, more than any, resists prima facie harmony. In John's Gospel the same is
said for John 18:28.
Mark's Chronology38
The problem with Mark 14:12 is that it “seems to confuse the day of preparation with
the first day of the feast.”39 The Day of Preparation is Nisan 14, while the Passover meal is held
on the night of Nisan 15. But Mark still declares the Last Supper as a genuine Passover meal.
Luke's Jesus reinforces the point, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I
suffer.”40
John's Chronology
In John 18:28 the Jewish officials lead Jesus to the praetorium early in the morning
but refuse to enter the Gentile property to avoid being defiled. This would indicate that the
Jewish officials have not yet eaten the Passover meal, while Jesus, now on his way to death, had
already shared the meal with the disciples.
Solving the Chronological Riddle
Both accounts would seem to indicate that the Last Supper was observed one day
early, on Nisan 14. So, how do we account for the meal as being an official Passover meal?
There are two good points in response. First, if we calculate the day in either account as the

38

For a thorough treatment and defense of an early Nisan 14 view of the Last Supper as Passover
observance, see R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek
Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002) 558-564. “If, however, the meal was prepared. . .
after sunset, it would only be on the same 'day' as the sacrifice if it took place on the previous evening. On that
understanding, Mark's careful note of time in fact places the last supper, as John does, on the evening which began
Nisan 14, not on that which followed it.” (561). France points out Jesus' hurriedness as a result of suspicions about
Judas' betrayal.
39

Collins, Mark: A Commentary, 646.

40

Luke 22:15

15
period from evening-to-evening,41 rather than morning-to-morning, much of the tension is, at
least on technical grounds, resolved.42 For example, the Day of Preparation, Nisan 14, would last
until early evening with Nisan 15 officially beginning later that same evening. This solution is, in
my view, the best means of resolving the issue of chronology, if we are to do so in terms of a
technically correct Passover observance.
The second way of resolving the chronology problem is by more loosely
understanding Passover. A meal shared by Jewish pilgrims on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, perhaps
taking place earlier than normally recognized, and following, at least in part, the seder, would
likely not be considered a regular evening meal, or simple disciple eucharist,43 but as a qualified
observance.44 Indeed the term could be used for the festival itself and not only the Passover
offering and meal.45 Though numerous other possibilities have been offered such as a possible
Essene calendar observance of Passover by Jesus and the disciples, a private Passover meal, or a
theologically interested Johannine account,46 each of these solutions presents greater challenges
than the two discussed here. And, of course, irrespective of the meal's context and paschal nature,

41

Despite attempts to contest this historically, the traditional understanding of “day” in the first-century
Judean context remains the evening-to-evening understanding. See France, The Gospel of Mark, 561 n. 27.
42

This is the conclusion of H. W. Hoehner's article “Chronology,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the
Gospels, 121. It is also put forward by Collins for resolving the chronological tension of Mark 14:12, Mark: A
Commentary, 646-47.
43

See Theissen and Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, 414-423

44

No one denies Passover as the historical context for Jesus' last meal, though it is frequently denied to
be a Passover meal itself (though sometimes it is denied to have even taken place). Theissen and Merz write, “A
historical context is indisputable: when Jesus went to Jerusalem, the feast of the Passover was imminent.” The
Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, 423. Stein compares the problem of chronology to our common
reckoning of the eve prior to Christmas as just as much Christmas in vernacular treatment; Jesus the Messiah: A
Survey of the Life of Christ, 201.
45

David Instone-Brewer, Traditions of the Rabbis from the Era of the New Testament, Vol. 2A, Feasts
and Sabbaths: Passover and Atonement, 115.
46

Keener has frequently pointed out this view. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 623;
Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Vol. 2 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003) 1100.

16
skeptical historians still dismiss the Last Supper as being a Passover meal. But “uncertainty
and debate regarding the precise date of an occurrence is not necessarily an indication of
unhistoricity.”47
An Annual Passover but Weekly Eucharist?
One of the reasons Theissen and Merz provide for rejecting the meal as paschal is that,
“had Jesus celebrated his farewell meal as a Passover meal, it would have led to the origin of an
emphatically annual meal.”48 But to this, one might ask, Would not the sayings of eschatological
imminence by Jesus (which are multiply-attested) have motivated early Christians towards a
more frequent practice? Why would believers in an expected returning Messiah wait a full year
between celebrations of his last meal? Further, while the Passover looked backward at the rescue
of the Hebrew people from Egyptian slavery, the eucharistic sayings of Jesus pointed forward to
an imminent return, kingdom, and eschatological banquet. Surely a memorial feast looking
forward to an expected event invites itself to more frequent practice.49
The Difficulty of the Didache
Perhaps no document proves more troublesome for the theology of the Last Supper
than the Didache. Though chapters nine and ten are recognized as early Christian eucharistic
prayers in memory of the Last Supper, pointed out by no few historians is the Didache's lack of
any sacrificial interpretive understanding of Jesus' death. The apparent non-sacrificial account is

47

Marshall, “The Last Supper,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 541.

48

Theissen and Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, 426.

49

Marshall offers another valid point to this objection: “. . . it is urged that the early church's daily (or
weekly) rite cannot have been derived from a kind of meal that happened only annually. It is an adequate reply to
this point that the early church meals were also related to the everyday meals of Jesus with his disciples.” “The Last
Supper,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 550.

17
then, by some, read back into Jesus' Last Supper as the proper understanding of what took
place, even informative of Jesus' aims.50
There are, however, some positive problems posed by the Didache. Early-church
historian Oskar Skarsaune has pointed out much of the Didache's paschal intimations.51 For
example, why does its outline and prayers so closely resemble the Passover prayers of qiddush
(sanctification) and birkat ha-mazon (the blessing for the nourishment)?52 Might not the
formulaic paschal elements have made their way into Christian eucharistic observances on
account of the paschal historicity of the Last Supper?
If the Last Supper was not a paschal meal, then what alternative history can the skeptic
offer to explain the Jewish paschal features of an early Christian eucharist performed in largely
Gentile congregations in memory of Jesus? When the Jewishness of the evidence is properly
weighed, its historicity certainly would not be accounted for, as we have seen, by way of
hellenistic aetiological myths. Further, the Didache does offer its own haggadah centered on
Jesus, in proper Passover fashion.53 In short, we simply say with Marshall, that “a document that
does not mention (though it implies) the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus is not a full
exposition of the belief and practice of an early Christian church.”54

50

So Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, 360-67.

51

Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple, 406-413. See also, Kurt Niederwimmer, The Didache: A
Commentary, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Harold W. Attridge
(Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 155.
52

Skarsaune also has an excellent discussion of the eucharist in early Christianity and its close
patterning with both the Passover and the Didache; In the Shadow of the Temple, 400-406.
53

Didache 10:3b “But you [almighty Lord] graced us with spiritual food and drink and eternal life
through <Jesus> your servant.” Niederwimmer, The Didache: A Commentary, 155.
54

Marshall, “The Last Supper,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 518. See the full
discussion pp. 516-528.

18
Luke: Long or Short?
A textual challenge in Luke's account of the Last Supper presents only slight difficulty.
There is textual evidence of both a short reading (Luke 22:14-19a) and a longer one (vv. 14-20).
The discrepancy, where the shorter reading is explained as an omission by the Nestle-Aland 27th
edition Greek New Testament, includes the text: τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον· τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν
ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν. καὶ τὸ ποτήριον ὡσαύτως μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι, λέγων· τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ
διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυννόμενον.55
The textual scenario is indeed best explained as an omission for two primary reasons.
(1) The longer version has textual support very much in its favor and (2) the omission can be
easily explained since reference to a second cup is not elsewhere attested in our traditions.
But apart from the excellent textual attestation of the second cup, the chances of a
literary interpolation in this passage (i.e., the idea that a scribe would have inserted the phrase)
would have the effect of producing the “strange situation that a purely literary operation resulted
in a text which makes excellent sense within the sequence of the Passover meal!”56 Which is
very improbable. Luke, acting as the careful historian that he is, is preserving the full historicity,
while Mark “has not seen fit to remind his readers of what was already familiar.”57

55

Luke 22:19b-20. “'Which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' And in the same way he
took the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'”
56

Quoting Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple, 403 n.8. Skarsaune means by this that the fully
attested passage (vv. 14-20) follows exactly the seder sequence of cup – bread – meal – cup. See Marshall's seven
arguments in favor of the longer text as well. “The Last Supper,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus,
533-541.
57

France, The Gospel of Mark, 563.

19
Coherence and Nova Part Two: The Son of Man
as the Suffering Servant
Much was said earlier in this paper regarding the newness of Jesus' words and
actions,58 and we have noted several scholars who see a purpose and intelligence evidenced by
these actions. Numerous critical scholars have in fact made mention of a sacrificial aim within
Jesus' death.59 But painting such a portrait of Jesus – one which closely mirrors that of the NT –
is often considered historically reckless or uncritical, at worst, and, at best, highly congenial. But
this need not be the case. Particularly of historical importance for the Last Supper event is the
tradition's explicit mention of two undeniably authentic strands of the Jesus tradition: (1) the
kingdom of God and (2) the Son of Man.60 That the kingdom of God is central to the ministry of
Jesus is a long-standing consensus in NT scholarship.61 And the Son of Man is recognized by
critical scholarship as just as authentic, particularly – and with great relevance for the Last
Supper – the martyrdom piece of that tradition.62

58

Darrell Bock, who also helpfully points out the actions of Jesus, writes, “Jesus presented himself in
act and in words tied to those acts as one who stood at the center of God's program and as the inaugurator of the
kingdom.” And, “By acting to show this decisive era's arrival, Jesus affirmed his central role in its coming, calling
on people to believe in what God was doing through him and, in doing so, to follow him. In this way, his actions
spoke as loud as his words, giving his words presented in conjunction with such acts a context which they could be
illustrated and appreciated.” Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 850, 852. Emphasis mine.
59

Ben F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus (London: SCM Press, 1979) 252-53; Wright, Jesus and the Victory of
God, 592; Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, 299-302; Theissen and Merz, The Historical Jesus: A
Comprehensive Guide, 432-36; Darrell L. Bock, “Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Summary,” in
Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, 825-852; idem. Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait
from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 559-648; Peter Stuhlmacher, “Isaiah 53 in the Gospels
and Acts,” in The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources ed. Bernd Janowski and Peter
Stuhlmacher (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 147-162; and Dunn, Jesus Remembered,
763-824.
60

Both occur in Mark's account (14:12-20); and we have dealt with the form-critical view that sees two
unique accounts jointed at v. 17.
61

Dunn declares it “one of the least disputable, or disputed, facts about Jesus.” Jesus Remembered, 383.

62

Maurice Casey, The Solution to the 'Son of Man' Problem Library of New Testament Studies (London:
T & T Clark, 2007) 131-34, 200. Part of this atoning sacrificial motif (Casey's terminology), includes Mark 8:31;
10:45 and 14:22-25. Though the suffering motif of the Son of Man does not meet the criteria of forms, the Son of
Man motif by itself does. Casey states, regarding 14:22-24, that “As the final events approached, Jesus also used the

20
N. T. Wright is one NT scholar who readily acknowledges the unique intentions of
Jesus: “Jesus' meal fused this great story [i.e., Passover] together with another one: the story of
Jesus' own life, and of his coming death.”63 And Jonathan Clawans writes “Indeed, it is difficult
to conceive of any understanding of Jesus' words at the Last Supper that does not grant on some
level (stated or not) that his equation of wine with blood and bread with flesh is a metaphor of
some sort.”64
It is probably no mistake that the research is beginning to take a more artistic turn
which grants historical-critical weight to Jesus' actions, not only his words, in the wake of formcriticism's complete fragmentation of nearly every piece of the oral traditions.65 Though, some
scholars have pointed out the inherit subjectivity involved in the use of such criteria as
coherence,66 if the preliminary criteria are indeed operating properly then a recognizable portrait
of an historical figure should begin to emerge, and not to make an attempt at identifying the
portrait resulting from the application of these criteria is to make non-sense of historicalcriticisms main purpose. If the historical-critic indeed stands by the integrity of the criteria of
authenticity, then on what grounds can piecing together the synthesized evidence be considered
occasion of his final Passover with his disciples to offer further interpretation of his forthcoming death as an atoning
sacrifice (14:22-24). All these predictions hold together very well. There should be no doubt that Jesus predicted his
forthcoming death in Jerusalem, and interpreted it as an atoning sacrifice which would enable God to redeem Israel.”
63

Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 554. Though we are not in full agreement with every point of
his reconstructed Jesus narrative, Wright helpfully draws attention to two specific aspects of the meal: (1) “First, like
all Jewish Passover meals, the event spoke of leaving Egypt.” And (2) “Second, however, the meal brought Jesus'
own kingdom-movement to its climax. It indicated the new exodus, and all that it meant, was happening in and
through Jesus himself.” (556-57).
64

Though he fails to properly recognize the many counter-temple features Jesus' ministry, in all their
variety; Jonathan Klawans, “Interpreting the Last Supper: Sacrifice, Spiritualization, and Anti-Sacrifice,” New
Testament Studies 48 (2002): 7.
65

Not unlike our findings above, Bock writes, “In sum, form criticism has had limited value as a
historical tool and has produced misleading results, especially when it has ignored the Jewish context of tradition
transmission that Gerhardsson and others have noted.” Studying the Historical Jesus, 184.
66

E.g., Morna Hooker, “Christology and Methodology,” New Testament Studies 17 (1971): 482-83. The
author recognizes that coherence stems from form-criticism.

21
“uncritical”? Much of the evidence, as we have seen, (a) points to Passover as the context for
Jesus' Last Supper with great probability; the historicity of the meal itself is (b) secured by
multiple attestation; (c) there are very credible themes found in the witnesses (e.g., the kingdom
of God and the Son of Man); and difficulties caused by (d) memory, (e) aetiological myths, (f)
the Didache, (g) chronology and (h) textual considerations were each critically dealt with.
With such a firm foundation the critically qualified account welcomes itself for
coherent interpretation. Already becoming noticeable with the work of scholars more involved
with oral methodologies, rather than strict form-critical scholarship, we are beginning to see a
recognizable Christian Jesus emerge. We simply point out here the validity of their work. After
carefully surveying the critical discussion, we continue to find a historically valid Jesus who
interprets the elements of his Last Supper Passover meal as a sacrificial metaphor for his own
coming death. We have a genuine critically attested novum of Jesus. And this portrait is a far
more credible historicity than certain theologically prejudiced accounts which incredibly marshal
Socrates and hemlock as pieces of an alternative historicity. The foundation for a historical Last
Supper is firm: We find that the Son of Man who is central to God's kingdom does indeed suffer
sacrificially. He is, as Mark says, a ransom for many.

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