From Net Prophets to Empire to Greco-Roman Meals


I only got to the Dinner Church Movement through a roundabout process. A couple years ago I became aware that there were many videos on Youtube. Not only that, but I came across a number of lectures being given by some of my favorite theologians and biblical scholars. As they were some of today’s prophet voices and were found on the internet, I decided to archive the lectures of some of them. Hence the name for the collection seemed logically to be “Net Prophets”. You can find the list of the first 20 I have made so far here:

While listening to one of the Brueggemann lecture I heard him mention two recent books. One was “Subversive Meals” by R. Alan Streett, and the other was “Galatians Reimagined” by Brigitte Kahl. The first thing that struck me in looking at the books’ pages on Amazon was that both pointed to the influence of living under the domination of the Roman Empire. That aspect of New Testament times had not been on the horizon in the books I had read in Biblical studies.

So, curious about that lacuna, I did a search on Amazon with such descriptors as ‘Bible’, ’Roman Empire’, ‘domination’, and the like. I eventually located over 100 books, most of them written since the turn of this century, about the influence of the Roman Empire on the writing of the New Testament and the beginning of the Christian faith. You can find those books included in my bibliography: I’ll go into the Empire aspect later.

But eventually, especially with finally getting around to reading Streett’s “Subversive Meals”, I discovered there to be a second strain of Biblical studies- the Greco-Roman Meals coming out of the SBL seminar (Society of Biblical Literature— an association of about 6000 New Testament scholars.)…/GrecoRomanMealsSeminar.htm
Most of their books were also published in the new century.

As far as I can tell, there are only two books that have brought the two strands of New Testament scholarship together, that, combined, give a very different view of Christian origins than I had run across before. The first I encountered was “Subversive Meals” which title beautifully encapsulates the social reality of the earliest Christian gatherings. The other book, mentioned earlier, is “In the Beginning Was the Meal” by Hal Taussig. If I have overlooked any other books that bring the ‘meals’ studies together with the ‘empire’ studies, please let me know.

After a couple years reading on the issue, I decided to look to see if the Biblical scholarship had produced any results ‘on the ground’. Were there any congregations that were experimenting with the meal format? If so, what did they call themselves? In making Google searches I came across first St Lydia’s, who labelled themselves as “A Dinner Church”, and then a few more. I finally got my hands on Taussig’s book and discovered in the last chapter that he has co-led a monthly service at Union Theological Seminary since 2003 called “The Table”. I believe there are more Dinner Church settings out there than I have so far found. Please let me know of any you are aware of.

A final word. As much as I have been able to uncover, the Dinner Church sites have incorporated much of the ‘meal’ research. But I am not sure they have discovered the ‘living in the Empire’ aspect. Again, let me know.

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