Monday, May 26, 2008

Banqueting Etiquette First Century Style

Josephus says that when the former high priest and ruler, Hyrcanus II, returned to Jerusalem, "Herod received him with all honour, assigned him the first place in meetings, gave him the most honoured seat at the banquet-table and called him Father" (Ant. 15.22).

Nothing too significant here, except that I couldn't help be reminded of the advice of another Judaean who lived a little later:
  • "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Luke 14:8-11 NRSV; cf. Matt 23:6)
  • "And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father-- the one in heaven." (Matt 23:9 NRSV).
Josephus goes on to explain that Herod's respect was feigned. It was not long before Hyrcanus, and his grandchildren Aristobulus III and Mariamme were dead.

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