Water Rites as Structuring Elements in Ancient Meals: An Examintaion of the Footwashing in John 12 and 13

Based on the exegetical observations in John 12 and 13, this contribution will examine the function of water rites in ancient meals. John describes acts of footwashing during a meal, which is regarded as inappropriate act in both scenes. Usually footwashing was placed in the beginning of the meal. This assumption is common sense. (DeMaris, Neyrey, Mathew) To analyze this exegetical problem, the contribution will take a close look at the synergy between ancient meals and water rites. (Al-Suadi, Smith) For this purpose, the time of the ablutions will first be examined on the basis of Klinghardt and Taussig. The course of an ancient meal will also be examined. Being based on Heilmann, Ascough and Becker the contribution will examine the actions with which the deipnon begins and ends and how exactly the transition from deipnon to symposion is structured. Although the beginning and transition are described in so many different ways, it becomes clear that ablutions were an essential element in ancient meals. To analyze the function of the water rites, the effects of the ablutions on the individual and the meal group will be examined on the basis of Mary Douglas theories on the body, purity and dirt. In addition to the current discourses of meal research, Plutarch's descriptions of the meal and Athenaios deipnosophistae will be particularly used. Descriptions of ablutions of these ancient authors will be an important reference point to demonstrate the relevance and variety of water rites performed within a meal. In the end, the results of the synergy of meals and water rites will be related to John 12 and 13. Finally, the contribution consists of two aims. On the one hand, the water rites within the meal are to be ascribed greater importance than has been the case in currently meal research. On the other hand, a new view of John 12 and 13 is to be created by these observations.