The Convivial Background of Romans 1:26-27


Christian Studies

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2017


The convivium served as Rome’s “after-dark entertainment,”1 of which idolatry and feasting led to a steady march toward inebriation and wild promiscuity.2 Temples provided dining facilities for both sacrificial meals and private parties, which were almost always connected with a sacrifice to the gods.3 Consequently at the convivia, hymns would be sung, cups lifted up, prayers spoken forth, and libations poured out in celebration and worship of the deities considered to be present at the table.4 In addition to their religious ambiance, the atmospheres of the banquets were sexually charged making it unsurprising that many of them allegedly ended in licentiousness.5 Consequently, the prurient nature of the dinners became a stock feature in Greco-Roman literature and art.6 Satirists lampooned unbridled feasters and moral philosophers chastised the partygoers’ escapades. Scholars have discussed the convivial background of Pauline passages such as Gal 2:11–14 and Romans 14–15. Of these works, Dennis Smith’s monograph represents the most recent and extensive treatment. From his research, Smith infers that not only are issues at the table prominent in the major churches of Paul, but also that “the ideology of the banquet as found in the culture formed the backdrop for the development of the issues and Paul’s resulting theological, liturgical, and ethical responses.”7 Similarly, Bruce Winter has shown how these banquets and their after-parties serve as the Sitz im Leben for a number of passages in 1 Corinthians as a handful of the believers

Publication Title

Lexington Theological Quarterly

Publisher Statement

Copyright 2015 Lexington Theological Quarterly

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