When we say, The Last Supper, Leonardo daVinci's iconic painting is what comes to mind. Jesus seated in the center of a long table with the twelve disciples. I would guess that millions of pages have been written about the iconography and hidden meanings of the mural painted in 1495-6. Supposedly the scene is at the moment that Jesus announced that he would be betrayed.

 

Recent archaeological and historic discoveries indicate that Leonardo took a great deal of artistic license with the painting and that he has it ALL WRONG.

 

The Last Supper would most likely have been the Jewish Seder meal served on Thursday before the setting of the sun. It would have been held in a large "upper room" somewhere on Mount Zion in Jerusalem's "upper city." It would have been in the home of a wealthy Jewish home, possibly a friend of one of the followers of Jesus.

 

The table most likely would have been a triclinium. A Roman styled table shaped in a "U". It was a style that had been adopted by first century Jews. It was a low table surrounded by cushions so that guests could eat with their right hand while laying on their left side. (The right hand was considered the "clean hand" while the left hand was considered "unclean" since it was used in personal hygiene.) A number of Biblical references would suggest was how the Last Supper was conducted.

A typical triclinium that was actually found in the excavation of Ponpii.

Typical seating arrangement of a meal on a triclinium table.

There is much debate about the seating arrangement at the Last Supper. But, custom and practice sheds light of the likely a typical arrangement and references from the New Testament actually points where at least Jesus, John, Judas and Peter sat.

 

The host, Jesus, would have sat at the second position on the left side of the U. John 13:23 indicates that John was seated on Jesus' right. That would be the only position for John in order for John 13:23 to be accurate, "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved" The position that John occupied was the position of the most important guest.

 

Interestingly enough, Judas would have been sitting to Jesus left, in the seat considered the position of Honor (possibly indicating the long standing friendship between Jesus and Judas). Matthew 26:23 suggests that " And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me." The only seat that would allow Jesus to dip His hand in the same dish would have been the person on His left since we know that John was on His right. So, it had to be Judas sitting on Jesus' left and in the Honored position. John 13:24 indicates that Peter sat across from John.

That arrangement would have put Peter in the position that would be occupied by the servant. It would have been the servants responsibility to wash the guests feet. So, it would suggest that Jesus was continuing to teach His disciples even as he knew He would soon die. John 13:6 & 8 seems to verify this, "Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?" and " Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." In John 13:14 & 16 Jesus spoke to Peter but for the benefit of all of the disciples, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet." and " Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him."

 

Also by seating John, the youngest of the disciples, in the most position and sitting Peter, considered the chief of the disciples, in the servant's seat, Jesus seems to be fortifying his answer to the question for which disciple was the greatest in Luke 22:26-27, "

 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth."

It seems that the painting of an unknown artist would have been a better representation of the actual Last Supper.