‘Lunch’ or ‘Dinner’?


John 12:1,  “Jesus six days before Passover, arrived at Bethany. … They made Him a supper there (2:1a) where Lazarus stayed … Martha served while Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him …”  


‘Supper’ – ‘deipnon’?


After a long journey from Jericho this sixth day (Nisan 8) ‘before the Passover Feast Day’ (Nisan 15), must just have begun when Jesus arrived, it having been evening-beginning of day now (‘Friday evening’ = the Sabbath already). So Jesus must have spent Friday night in Bethanywhere Lazarus stayed”. A meal next morning was prepared for Him, and served, lunchtime. It was then that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet.


The meal at Simon's house.

Matthew 26:7 mentions a meal “as He sat …” – ‘anakeimenou’ –   “in Bethany” – a dinner – “in Simon the leper’s house”, “two days before the Feast (Nisan 15)”.  The narrative in Mark records events in a series of activities of the same day. Sundry preparations were undertaken for the day and, the meal served up could only have been the midday meal.


‘As He sat’ – to eat = ‘for lunch’



Police and cavalry went out on Friday about dinner-time (peri deipnou hohran) ... And late of hour (kai opse tehs hohras) they came up together against (Polycarp) and found him lying in the upper room ... So when he heard that they had arrived he went down and talked with them, while those who were present wondered ... whether there was so much haste for the arrest of an old man. Therefore he ordered supper [phagein kai pi-ein, “food and drink” – lunch] to be set before them in that same hour,  (en ekeinei tehi hohrai) ... And he asked them to give him an hour to pray ... and he prayed ... so that for two hours he could not be silent. ... [The outgoing hour (of day) having come – tehs hohras elthousehs tou eksienai] the hour came for (Polycarp’s) departure they set him on an ass, and led him into the city while becoming Great Sabbath (ontos sabbatou megalou). Now the blessed Polycarp was martyred on the second day of the first half of the month of Xanthicus the seventh day before the kalends of March, on a great sabbath, in the eighth hour (sabbatohi megalohi hohrai oghdoei)” Loeb Classical Library Vol. 2, The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, 7:1-8:1, 21.


The date and actual hour on the clock so to speak when Polycarp was burnt on the stakes are given against Roman reference points in time. The “eighth hour” is the Roman equivalent of the second hour of night, Jewish calculation. The time called opse was several hours earlier. Two hours were spent in prayer by Polycarp. Then he was led into the city as the sun set and “The Preparation” 7:1 – Friday – “became the Great Sabbath”. This would have been about six o’clock. His trial and martyrdom took about two hours. He died “8 p.m.” that Friday evening “on the Great Sabbath”.


Kirsopp Lake’s translation in Loeb of opse with “evening” can not be correct, and the interpretation of deipnou with “supper”, is untenable because the midday meal, “lunch”, is described. The translation, “the hour came for (Polycarp’s) departure”, also fails to show the direct relation of the “closing (outgoing) hour” of “Preparation (Friday – paraskeueh, “late” – opse) and the transition into the “Great Sabbath”.


Deipnon’ = ‘lunch’ = “food and drink” at ‘late-hour-day’ = 12 to 2 p.m. because at least four hours before 6 p.m..


Lk14:12, ‘ariston eh deipnon’; ‘any meal or chief meal’ – at whichever hour. Both are meant for ‘feasts’, compare verse 13, regardless of the time of day; which is clear from the context. According to verse 17, “lunch-time” – ‘tehi hohrai tou deipnon’, midday only, can make sense. Everybody had a lot of business still to do on that day.


In Jn13:2 – ‘deipnon’ clearly was ‘supper’ – of the evening.  Context tells which ‘meal’ of day is meant.