In the ESV translation, in Luke 22:14 (and Luke 22:27, and there might be other places), it says, "And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him". Now, as a native English speaker, it seems like this should be at the table. Why would the translators not add the "the"?

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it can be answered by an English dictionary.
    – Ruminator
    Jun 4 '18 at 19:35
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    The question is about understanding a biblical text. It might only turn out to be a product of English usage (as I suspect it is), but it doesn't invalidate the question.
    – b a
    Jun 4 '18 at 20:51
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    First table is not a separate word in the original Greek. It is part of the verb ἀνέπεσεν. Note the ESV has "at table" while the NAS has "at the table." This may be a difference between British English and American English. However, I was unable to verify this with a American English to British English translation tool.
    – Perry Webb
    Jun 4 '18 at 21:08
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    I agree with Perry. A Greek dictionary would be more helpful. From grammaticists, the expression, "to wait at table" can be traced back to the early 1800's as an abbreviation, so I'd assume "to recline at table" had a similar origin.
    – Dieter
    Jun 5 '18 at 2:39
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    "At table" is a perfectly valid (generally British) English phrase. But this is a good question in my opinion (+1) as this usage is not common in the US and thus potentially confusing. Also, a Google search of the results (mostly blogs) discussing this term in the ESV yields mostly crap, so having a good answer here would be a boon to this site.
    – Dan
    Jun 5 '18 at 3:57

As Perry pointed out, the word "table" does not even appear in the original Greek of Luke 22:14. Also, both the KJV and the Douay-Rheims do not use the word. Both bibles translate the verse identically.

Luke 22:14

(KJV) And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.

(DRB) And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.

So, instead of saying "he sat down" or simply "he reclined," why does the ESV say "he reclined at table?"

I answer that this is to account for the fact that, although several Greek verbs can mean "recline," the verb ἀνέπεσεν is used exclusively (at least in the New Testament) for reclining or sitting down in the context of preparing to eat. You wouldn't use ἀνέπεσεν to talk about a sick person lying in bed. The verb appears 12 times in the NT, always in the context of eating (see http://biblehub.com/greek/strongs_377.htm). Perhaps this is why the ESV says "he reclined at table" instead of just "he reclined." It seems to me that "he reclined to eat" would be an equally good translation.

The verb is used at the Last Supper, but also when the multitudes sit down on the ground and Jesus multiplies the loaves for them. Notice that the verb ἀνέπεσεν does not presuppose a table per se, but yet is connected with the context of eating. Perhaps this is why the ESV says "reclined at table" instead of "reclined at the table."

  • Good points (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Jun 7 '18 at 13:26
  • These are super helpful points, and I think it almost answers my question (but not quite). It does certainly shine light behind what the actual Greek is (which is what care much more about). However, it seems like from the comments that it comes down to the different style of English - as an American, it feels wrong to say "reclined at table" rather than "reclined at the table", but in British English perhaps it's different.
    – lcta0717
    Jun 8 '18 at 15:38
  • Excellent answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Nov 12 '20 at 21:35

I appreciate the answer to this. However, I found that it's actually not true that all the occaasions of the word are only used in the context of eating. What about where Peter's mother 'laid down' with a fever (Mark 1:30)? Or the paralytic on the bed (Mark 2:4)? Or the invalids in John 5:3; 6? My understanding is that these are all the same Greek word.


  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please take the tour (link below) to better understand how this site works. This "answer" appears to be more a comment than a question.
    – Dottard
    Nov 12 '20 at 21:08
  • The instances you quote use the κατάκειμαι NOT ἀναπίπτω; so your comments are factually incorrect.
    – Dottard
    Nov 12 '20 at 21:34

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