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The Hunger for Home: Food and meals in the Gospel of Luke by Matthew Croasmun and Miroslav Volf

13 January 2023

Henry Wansbrough on New Testament meals

THIS attractive short book builds on the quite notable stress laid on the importance of food and meals in the Gospel of Luke. It is not only at Emmaus that the Lord is recognized in the breaking of bread, for repeatedly meals are the occasion for important encounters with and for the teaching of Jesus. For the authors, a meal is “the quintessential enactment of home, a site of nourishing mutual encounter”, “sites of mutual care”.

Consequentially, “a loaf of bread is the most ordinary and the most miraculous of things”; it is a symbol of warmth, welcome, and homeliness. Meals are not in coffee shops or restaurants, but are, rather, enactments of home, and the longing for a home is central to all our thinking. In contrast, the rich man who neglected Lazarus dines on his own in solitary splendour and remains blind to what he did to Lazarus, even when he makes his fruitless appeal to father Abraham.

The book emanates from the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and the Yale Life Worth Living Program. It is not a stone-cold work of exegesis, but is full of enriching ideas and suggestions, written rapidly in bursts of enthusiasm and in colloquial rather than scholarly language. Scholars might cavil at details: Nazareth is not in Judaea, and the details of fishing restrictions are surely imaginary. But the book is refreshingly alert to the power and imagery of language and associations: for example, the kiss of the Prodigal’s father and of the sinful woman at Simon’s dinner, contrasting with Simon’s own abstention from a kiss.

The mission of Jesus is seen primarily under the imagery of the Jubilee of Leviticus 25, a release from all kinds of oppression. The two authors have done a welcome service in opening the eyes of all who love the Word of God.

Fr Henry Wansbrough OSB is a monk of Ampleforth, emeritus Master of St Benet’s Hall, Oxford, and a former member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.


The Hunger for Home: Food and meals in the Gospel of Luke
Matthew Croasmun and Miroslav Volf
Baylor University Press £16.95
Church Times Bookshop £15.25

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