Last Supper

Records of events that took place during the Last Supper differ considerably among four Gospels (washing of feet, arguments among apostles, institution of Lord's supper, etc.). The order of these events is important, for instance, to determine whether Judas was present when Jesus instituted Lord's Supper. Also, whether the dispute occurred before or after the washing of feet matters.

What is the exact order of these events during the Last Supper?

Mark 14 Jesus fortells one of the twelve will betray him. Jesus does not point out who the traitor is. Mark does not make it clear whether Judas was present when the Lord's Supper is instituted by Jesus. After the supper, Apostles go to Mount of Olives, singing a hymn. Before reaching Gethesemane, Jesus predicts Peter's denial.
Matthew 26 Matthew is more specific. Judas asks "Surely not I, Rabbi?" and Jesus replies, "You have said so." Again, Matthew does not make it clear whether Judas was present when Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper. After the dinner, Apostles go to Mout Olivet singing a hymn. On the road, Jesus predicts Peter's denial, not at the supper.
Luke 12

After the Lord's Supper is instituted, Jesus predicts one of them will betray him, but Luke does not mention the exchange between Judas and Jesus. Luke further writes (12:24) "A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest." But Jesus resolves it by saying, "rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves."


John 13

Jesus washes Apostles feet and then predicts one of them will betray him. John skips the institution of the Lord's Supper. Jesus gives Apostles a new commandment to love one another and predicts Peter's denial before the meal ends.

After the supper, Jesus explains he is leaving to "prepare a place." Next, he promises to send the Holy Spirit who will be with them forever. Jesus then delivers his last discourse, probably an hour long, to Apostles, in which Jesus says (i) "I am the true vine," (ii) the world will hate them, (iii) the Spirit will guide them to all truth, (iv) after he leaves, their pain will turn into joy, (v) he is going to the Father.

After the last discourse, John records Jesus' first prayer for Apostles. Jesus prays Father to protect them, they may be one so that the world will know that Father has loved them, including those who will believe Apostles' words, as Father has loved Jesus.


One of the earliest attempts to reconcile the four Gospels is Tatian's diatessaron (Greek: According to Four), which reshuffles the texts of the four Gospels so that the narrative may be in a more chronological order.

Jesus rises from suppler and washes the feet of Apostles (Section 44), but this ritual occurs before the Last Supper. (Section 45) At the Last Supper, Jesus predicts one of them will betray him. Judas askes, "Can it be I?" and Jesus replies "You have said." Tatian then follows John's sequence of events, the last discourse and his prayer for Apostles.

A Plausible Order of Events

(1) A Dispute among Apostles This dispute is likely to have taken place in the absence of Jesus. Peter and John were sent to prepare for the Passover in John Mark's upper room or guestchamber. In the evening, Jesus and the twelve came in the evening. A dispute may have arisen among Apostles while Jesus was talking to the host. Judas is present.
(2) Washing of Feet The main purpose is to teach Apostles to serve one another, insteading of arguing who is the greatest. Salome earlier visited Jesus and asked for preference, and this event may have touched off the dispute. Judas is present.
(3) Judas' betrayal foretold In the course of the meal ("while they sat and did eat"), Jesus predicts Judas will betray him. When Judas asks, "Is it I?," Jesus replies, "You have said." Later, he encourages Judas to do quickly what he intended to do, and Judas leaves the upper room.
(4) Lord's Supper

Then Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper. They were eating bread and drinking wine a few times throughout the meal. (Wine First) Jesus is likely to have started this only ritual with the cup, and everyone drank from the same cup. This was then followed by his breaking of a loaf of bread, and giving it to each.

Luke says Jesus took a cup, blessed and gave it to Apostles, saying "This is my blood," and then broke bread.

In Mark, Matthew and Diatessaron, this sequence is reversed.
Mark says "as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it."

John skips it altogether, because his purpose was to supplement what is missing in the other Gospels.

Nicholas Poussin

The most historically accurate rendition of the Last Supper is two of Nicholas Poussin's paintings. In terms of superb color and the mood depicted, the one in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinborough is superb. It is worth a special trip, if you really want to see the glory of what it was like during the Last Supper.

This painting from Olga's Gallery ( ) seems to be an earlier rendition, almost a practice. Nevertheless, this as well as the other in Edinborough accurately describes the furniture (tricline) and posture of the Apostles. Tricline is a Roman, squarish U-shaped divan or sofa. On the exterior of all three sides (hence tri) dining guests recline (hence cline). The open side is for servants to serve food, and in this painting the servant is leaving the room on the left side of the room.


Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. Famous, but grossly inaccurate. Jesus and the Twelve reclined, unlike the Western people sitting at the table as in this painting. This table was not a Roman furniture.
Meisters des Hausbuchs, Das Abentmahl.
Again, the same type of mistake is made here. Notice, everybody, except Judas, has a halo around their heads.