Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jews eating with Gentiles

When it comes to Jews eating with Gentiles, what were the options, and what attitudes did Jews have towards Gentile food and Gentile dining company? This is an important question for Jews living in cities of the Diaspora where kosher food was not always plentiful and they had to interact with Gentiles in order to get anywhere in the social order. Here's an overview:

Rejection of Gentile oil as impure: Josephus, Life 74; War 2.591; Ant. 12.120.
Rejection of Gentile wine: Dan. 1.8; Add. Esth. 4.17.
Bringing one’s own food and wine to a meal: Jdth. 12.1-4, 19.
Eating only vegetables: Dan. 1.8-15; Josephus, Life 14; Rom. 14.1-2.
Dispensing with prayers and libations at joint meals: Ep. Arist. 184-85.
Sitting at separate tables: Jos. and Asen. 7.1.
Not eating with Gentiles at all: Acts 10.28; 11.3; Tacitus, Hist. 5.5.


Loren Rosson III said...


All good sources to keep in mind, and don't forget these too:

No associating with Gentiles: Apolonius of Molon (see Josephus, Contra Apionem 2:148 and 258).

No eating with Gentiles: Diodorus of Siculus (Bibliotheca Historia 34:1:2)

No living/dining with strangers: Pompeius Trogus (Historicae Philippae, book 36)

No eating with Gentiles: Philostratus (Vita Apollonii, 5:33)

The problem of mixed table fellowship (to which circumcision was the remedy) was ubiquitous, which is why I often emphasize in the context of Paul's Gentile mission that it's impossible to think about the question of "no circumcision" without direct and immediate implications for mixed table fellowship.

The Pook said...

Daniel 1:8 is ambiguous as far as Gentile wine per se is concerned, or even eating with Gentiles. It doesn't say Daniel's scruples were about eating with the non-Jews or to drinking pagan wine because it was pagan. We are not told exactly what the problem was. With the meat it was almost certainly not kosher and may have included things like shellfish, unclean animals and birds, etc, so that would explain why only vegetables were safer. But the text doesn't say what the problem with the wine was. Perhaps it was offered to idols. But perhaps it was more along the lines of the dependence on the King that it represented (cf Dan 5:17). Or the decadence of the whole setup. Or a combination of all those things. I don't think it's safe to read back into Daniel later Jewish developments of not even being willing to enter a Gentile's house or eat with them. After all, in chapter 5 he has no scruples about entering the banquet hall of Belshaazzar when summoned to interpret the writing on the wall. Interestingly, there is further tantalising possibility in 5:23 where Danile accuses Belshazzar of using the vessels from the Jerusalem Temple to drink wine out of with his concubines. Might not his father Nebuchadnezzar done a similar thing when he first received the defeated Judeans in his court? That would certainly have made Daniel wary of drinking wine.

There are all sorts of possibilities and I don't think we can safely come to firm conclusions.

Marc said...


In the diaspora it was much more laxed and compromised than in Judea.

Peter lived in Judea and although not originally from Judea, adopted the Judean halacha. Paul let Peter know that and reminded him of that.