‘No Women’ at the Last Supper?

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Was it the only table in the room?

A Chilean cardinal, appointed by the Pope to clean up the Roman Catholic Church’s image in that country after a massive sex scandal, is now in hot water for declaring there were “no women” at the Last Supper and that “there was a reason for it,” although he didn’t say what that “reason” might be (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/15/chile-bishop-resigns-after-suggesting-there-is-a-reason-the-last-supper-had-no-women).

But the first question should have been, “Is that true?”

In the New Testament, the Greek word “mathetes” is translated as “disciples” and used to denote, collectively, all of Jesus’ followers. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word means a learner or a pupil. We know Jesus had many disciples, some of whom were women–like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Martha, etc.

But there are in the Gospels only 12 “apostles,” from the Greek word meaning a “delegate” or a “commissioner” for Jesus Christ.

So let’s see what the Scripture says.

Matthew 26:19–“they [“his disciples”] made ready the passover”

Matthew 26:20–“he sat down with the twelve”

Mark 14:16–same as Matthew 26:19

Mark 14:17–“in the evening he cometh with the twelve”

Luke 22:14–“he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.”

We are not told that this was the only table in the room; nor are we told whether there was anyone else in the room not seated at that table. We can be sure the 12 apostles were seated with Jesus because they were His apostles, His delegates–and starting that very night, they would have a special role to play in history.

Were none of the ordinary “disciples,” men or women, present? Maybe, maybe not: the Scripture doesn’t say. Personally, I believe the women in Christ’s following would have had very much to do with preparing the Passover dinner.

Anyway, the cardinal would have been well-advised to tread more carefully. We discover in the Book of Acts, and in Paul’s epistles, that women like Priscilla and Phebe were key figures in the growth of the early Church. Christ did not reject their service.

All we know is that only the 12 apostles sat with Jesus at His table. It does not permit us to state that other disciples, men and women, were excluded from the room. But if they were, it could only have been because the 12 apostles were special and Jesus was preparing them to play a special role.

9 comments on “‘No Women’ at the Last Supper?

  1. Sounds like a liberal cardinal who adheres more to the gospel of Marx than the gospel of Jesus.

    1. After actually reading the article it said the comments were made in a television interview, but it doesn’t say what the conversation was about or what questions were asked, so there is really no context to his comments or what he was suggesting by saying them. It could be I judged him too harshly without knowing all the facts.

      But it would be a mistake to anachronistically impose our 21st century standards onto the first century. Women in those days took subservient roles, and we’re often treated as second hand citizens. However, Christianity elevated the role of women. As such, women outnumbered the men in the early church so much that Celsus said Christianity was a religion that attracted women.

      Regardless, the focus should not be on that. It doesn’t matter if women were at the Last Supper or not or that all the apostles were men. As Paul said “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  2. In Luke 8, it is clear that the Lord had several women followers, supporters. Some people let their own biases rule their thinking instead of the Scripture.

  3. The women probably did most of the preparation and cooking for the Passover meal. They were probably nearby to help serve, even if they weren’t seated at the table with Jesus and the Twelve.

  4. In one verse it said the women followers were helping to fund Jesus’ ministry. Whoever owned that upper room could have been married and his wife may have helped with the preparation and maybe even with the serving of the food.

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