April 17, 2012

A Triclinium Passover 2012

For several years I have held Passover dinners with friends and family. I have mostly held a more traditional Jewish feast, with very few changes to the Hagadah text (the traditional Jewish text used at all Passover feasts). However, this year I wanted to try something different. I wanted to create a setting that may have been closer to what Jesus and his disciples would have had. To do this I decided to have everyone sit on the floor around tricliniums, while eating with their hands and reclining on their sides (if they chose to). I must say it was probably one of the more memorable Passovers I have had. Below are a few of the pictures from the evening, including the table setup and the actual dinner.

To create the short triclinium tables, I set each 8' table on two cucumber boxes (I got the boxes from my local grocery store).

I bought baskets, wood bowels, and striped sheets from Goodwill. The baskets were used to serve food, and the sheets acted as a kind of mat for people to sit on during the meal.

The table runners for the tricliniums were cut from long sheets (also bought at Goodwill) into pieces about 14" wide and 8-10' long. I did use plates (as it can be very hard to always be passing the main dishes around), but only had utensils available on a side table.

As part of the feast, I had two from each table (who were sitting on the far end, nearest the kitchen) serve during the feast. They poured the grape juice, and also were responsible for assisting with washing the hands (one having a basin of water, the other a towel) as part of the Passover. These were our "servants" for the night.

Each table could seat 16 comfortably, however, we could have squeezed in a few more.

The head (or host) of the table was on the opposite side of where the servants sat (see my video about the setting of a triclinium). The head (second from the end) was served first, and acted as the leader during the Passover feast. He or she was also served the wine (grape juice) first, and had their hands washed first by the servants.

Some of the food included entire fish (which was very popular), chicken strips, meatballs, shish kabobs, lentils, and many finger foods (including traditional Roman dipping sauces, grapes, plumbs, dates, olives, nuts, hard boiled eggs, etc). The unleavened bread and sliced apples, cucumbers, and peaches were used as a sort of utensil for the meal.

Overall, I think it was a very unique experience. I hope to have many more Triclinium Passovers in the future. I will also try to share more details on how to host your own Triclinium Passover. L'chaim! (meaning "to life" in Hebrew).

April 6, 2012

Titulus Crucis: The King of the Jews

In preparation for Holy Week, a couple weeks back I made a titulus. I had wanted to make one for about a year, and was originally going to make it with letters carved into wood (as is often seen in pictures of the crucifixion). However, after some research I found that the titulus that was placed above the cross, was more likely a board covered with gypsum with red or black lettering. Below are the sources I found and the pictures showing how I made the final product:

“It was customary at Roman executions, at least in the case of remarkable prisoners, for the charge under which the prisoner was suffering to be written briefly on a tablet covered with gypsum. This was usually hung round the neck of the criminal, or carried before him to the place of execution. It was afterwards hung from, or fixed to, the top of the cross.” (A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels; page 732)

“A plaque (tabula; Greek pinax) was prepared indicating the charge against the prisoner, i.e., the crime or causa poenae of which he had been convicted. ... Blinzer (Trial 254) imagines the writing would have been in red or black lettering on the white gypsum surface of a board. From our chief references to a titulus outside the NT, it appears that such an inscription was frequent but not necessary, that there was considerable latitude in the wording (which could contain a note of sarcasm), and that it could be displayed in several ways.” (The Death of the Messiah, Raymond E. Brown; page 963)

To make the titulus, I first cut a pine board to about 9x18. 

I then took a chisel and tried to make the wood look like it was hand hewn. 

Then came the fun part, aging the board. To do this, I went out, covered it with dirt, and spread the slightly wet dirt all over the board until it was colored and old looking. To get the aged look you do have to rub the dirt in quite a bit.

Next, I used Sheetrock Patching Compound (the dry kind) and created a mixture of "gypsum" for the board. I then added a very small handful of dry dirt to help add specks, and then spread a thin layer of the mixture over the surface of the board.

Next, I created the lettering in Photoshop and printed the image on a sheet of paper. I then placed the paper on the slightly wet gypsum, and with a mechanical pencil, scored the letters into the gypsum. I then painted the letters using red paint. The translation is as follows:

Hebrew: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews
Latin: REX (King) IVDAEORVM (of the Jews)
Greek: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ (King) ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩΝ (of the Jews)

Finally, I hung the board with old looking flax twine, making sure to have enough space so that the titulus could be hung over the neck.

How ironic that the title that Jesus carried on that Friday morning, could not be more true. Truly, he was the King of Jews, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Good Friday to everyone!