One of the most famous paintings in the world is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Jesus is seated in the middle of the table with six guests on each side of Him. Unfortunately, that seating arrangement in the painting is almost certainly wrong.

Is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Super Painting Historically and Biblically Accurate?

DaVinci lived 1500 years after Jesus, and his painting, which is certainly iconic and beautiful, is not biblically or historically accurate in the way it portrays the supper. In fact, when we read the scriptures through the lens of the traditional triclinium seating arrangement, some interesting insights begin to pop off the page. We see a profound picture of the depth of Jesus’ love and his empowerment of his disciples.

The word triclinium essentially means three couches. The guests would lay on their left side with their head toward the table and their feet facing outward away from the table, leaving their right hand free to eat the meal. This was a common custom in the Roman world of the time.


Luke 22:14 describes the preparation for the Last Supper like this,

“When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.”

Their legs would be stretched away from the table allowing a servant to go around and wash their feet as they ate.

The host of the feast would not sit in the middle, as DaVinci’s painting depicts, but instead second to the left. It was customary that the host would have a guest of honor on his left and a trusted friend to his right at the end of the table. Then the seating continued around the table, from most important to the least important, and the servant would occupy the last position, closest to the door, so they could get up and retrieve more food and wine as the evening progressed.

Now there are a lot of things that start to make sense when we understand this. First, it sheds light on the scene when the disciples are arguing about who is greatest – and who will sit on Jesus’ right and his left. It’s quite possible that they are arguing about seating arrangements. To his right is the trusted friend. To his left is the guest of honor, and remember, on the far end on the other side is the servant.

The Last Supper Painting Seating Arrangement

There are a few details in the gospel accounts that shed light on where the key players were sitting. Jesus was second from the left as the host, and in John 13:23, we discover,

“One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved (we know from many references that this is describing John), was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?””

This passage indicates that John was seated to Jesus’ right in the spot of a trusted friend. Since they were all leaning on their left side, if John ‘leaned back against’ Jesus, it meant he had to be on Jesus’ right. We also read that Peter motioned to John, which means he was probably outside of earshot and directly across the table. Which would put Peter in the position of the servant. More evidence for this comes after dinner when Jesus begins to wash the disciples’ feet. This was always the job of the servant. Remember who caused the biggest fuss when Jesus started washing feet? It was Peter. He claimed, “you shouldn’t be washing my feet, Jesus, I should be washing yours.” Why? If he was in the seat of the servant – it was his actual job. This arrangement underlines the power of Jesus’ humility that the leader and host should wash the feet of the servant.

There is one more interesting detail. If John was to Jesus’ right in the spot of the trusted friend, and Peter was across the table in the position of servant, who was in the seat of honor to Jesus’ left?

Further along in John 13:26, John leans back against the chest of Jesus and asks him – who is it that will betray you, and Jesus said,

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

Jesus and Judas were dipping bread in the same bowl, which means the shocking guest of honor at the Last Supper of Jesus was Judas the betrayer. It seems shocking, but why is this important? This detail would suggest that to the very end, Jesus loved Judas, and demonstrated his love by placing the greatest of sinners, the chief betrayer, in the seat of honor.

This detail also provides present hope for all of us. Because we have all betrayed Jesus. And even at your worst, even in your darkest hour, even if you think you’ve fallen well beyond God’s reach, he still offers you a seat at the table, even a seat of honor. And gives you another chance to love him, to do the right thing, to turn from your wicked ways and follow him. Judas chose to proceed with his treachery, but you don’t have to.

Jesus would go on to announce the “new covenant of my blood.” The promise of this new covenant is that the Holy Spirit will come, the very presence of God, and will take up residence in our hearts. He will be an ever-present help in our time of need and a guide in our everyday lives. He will never leave us or forsake us. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, there remains an invitation to the seat at God’s table.

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What do Christians really believe? Do Protestants and Catholics believe the same things? Get answers to these big questions and more from Pastor Derek Sanford in this free video lesson.

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