Formative Feasting

Practices and Virtue Ethics in Deuteronomy’s Tithe Meal and the Corinthian Lord’s Supper

by Michael Rhodes (Author)
©2022 Monographs XXIV, 286 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Literature, Volume 176


The Bible is filled with commands to care for the poor. But how does Scripture envision the people of God becoming a community capable of following those commands? In Formative Feasting, Dr. Michael J. Rhodes argues that meals stand at the heart of Scripture’s strategy for moral formation oriented towards justice and solidarity. To make this case, Rhodes brings together a constructive, theological account of moral formation through practice with rigorous exegesis of the Deuteronomic tithe-meal and Corinthian Lord’s Supper. By drawing on virtue ethics, ritual studies, and socio-economic research on meals in the ancient Near East and Greco-Roman world, Rhodes both demonstrates that these meals intended to transform the individual and corporate character of the communities that practiced them, and uncovers the "mechanics" of moral formation embedded within them. The result is a book that models a partnership between theological ethics and theological interpretation that overcomes the oft-lamented gap between exegesis and ethics, with important implications for contemporary communities of faith.
Formative Feasting will be of special interest to researchers, students, and church leaders interested in moral formation and the Bible, as well as those interested in feasting and eating in Scripture. Seminary and college courses focused on issues of food in the biblical world, as well as those exploring the relationship between exegesis and ethics, will find Formative Feasting an essential addition to course readings.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Advance Praise
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Editor’s Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Part I Constructing a Theory of Formative Practices
  • Chapter One Sources for a Theory of Formative Practices: Virtue Ethics
  • Chapter Two Sources for a Theory of Formative Practices: Ritual and Liturgical Ethics
  • Chapter Three Formative Practices in the Context of Holistic Ecclesial Formation: A Constructive Account
  • Part II Formative Practices, Holistic Ecclesial Formation, and the Deuteronomic Tithe Meal
  • Chapter Four Feasting for Fear of the Lord: Eating the Tithe and Acquiring Virtue in Deuteronomy 14:22–29
  • Chapter Five Forgetful Feasting: Meals and Moral Formation in the Frame of Deuteronomy
  • Part III Formative Practices, Holistic Ecclesial Formation, and the Lord’s Supper in Corinth
  • Chapter Six Approaching the Meal: Morally Formative Practices … In Paul?
  • Chapter Seven Forward Unto Virtue: The Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34 as a Formative Practice
  • Chapter Eight Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Select Scripture Index
  • Series index

Select Scripture Index

Editor’s Preface

More than ever the horizons in biblical literature are being expanded beyond that which is immediately imagined; important new methodological, theological, and hermeneutical directions are being explored, often resulting in significant contributions to the world of biblical scholarship. It is an exciting time for the academy as engagement in biblical studies continues to be heightened.

This series seeks to make available to scholars and institutions, scholarship of a high order, and which will make a significant contribution to the ongoing biblical discourse. This series includes established and innovative directions, covering general and particular areas in biblical study. For every volume considered for this series, we explore the question as to whether the study will push the horizons of biblical scholarship. The answer must be yes for inclusion.

In this volume, based on a revised version of the author’s PhD dissertation, Michael Rhodes examines the ethical and theological implications of biblical meals as the basis for Christian practice. Rhodes brings to this examination his personal wrestling with the role of wealthier western Christians and their moral responsibility to attend to the plight of the global poor. In this regard, he addresses the questions by crafting a dialogue between theological ethics and the theological interpretation of scripture. Neither theological ethics nor interpretation of scripture functions in isolation in this respect. In particular, Rhodes centers on two texts, namely the tithe feast in Deuteronomy 14:22–27 and the communal Lord’s ←xv | xvi→Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34. By focusing on both the Old Testament and the New Testament texts, Rhodes establishes through a copious and detailed exploration the idea that moral formation of meals and the feeding of the poor is biblically pervasive. Given the direction of this study, there is the intentional intersection of Old Testament interpretation, New Testament interpretation and theological ethics. This is an important and timely scholarly examination that will have significant implications for Christians and the Church. The result is a study that is certain to generate ongoing discourse, and will not only further expand the biblical horizon, but will do so in a direction that invites further conversation.

The horizon has been expanded.

Hemchand Gossai

Series Editor

←xvi | xvii→


The present work is an edited version of my dissertation, completed at Trinity College Bristol/University of Aberdeen, and defended in 2019. The long journey of writing this book has relentlessly reminded me of two truths. First, all our work is, at bottom, a gift given to us by the lord Jesus, and second, one of the primary ways he gives such gifts is through the gift-giving of other members of his body. As an act of gratitude, then, it is appropriate to name a few of those through whom God has given me such gifts.

I am grateful beyond words for the numerous scholars who generously provided input and encouragement on this project at key points, including Stanley Hauerwas, Joel Green, Gordon McConville, Bill Davis, Rollin Grams, Ryan O’Dowd, Phillip Lasater, Arthur Keefer, N.T. Wright, and Walter Moberly. Brian Brock and Phil Ziegler’s input as internal examiners deepened my understanding of the field of theological ethics immensely. John Barclay, Chris Wright, Julien Smith, and Danny Carroll R.’s generosity in conversation and engagement continues to humble me. Moreover, I am particularly grateful for the sustained, ongoing guidance and friendship I have received from Dru Johnson, Peter Altmann, Kelly Kapic, and Mark Glanville. Special mention also must be made of Brian Fikkert, a mentor and friend whose constant dialogue and encouragement have been indispensable, academically and otherwise. I am also overwhelmingly grateful for Brent ←xvii | xviii→Strawn’s generosity, first as an external examiner of my dissertation, and afterwards as a friend, mentor, and champion for this book.

I am grateful to all the staff, past and present, of the Memphis Center for Urban and Theological Studies (including you, Catlin!), where I served as a faculty member while conducting the majority of the research and writing for this book. My colleagues’ friendship and engagement has been invaluable, not only academically, but also in envisioning a church that embodies the Deuteronomic tithe-feast and Corinthian eucharist today. I am likewise grateful for my colleagues at Carey Baptist College, whose hospitality from afar has been overwhelming, and whose encouragement (and in Siong Ng’s case, generous library support!) helped get this book across the finish line.

Speaking of libraries, I am grateful to Clint Banz and the library staff of Lancaster Bible College and to Bob Turner and the library staff of Harding School of Theology, who made this research possible. Thanks to Justin Lonas for his friendship and willingness to create the diagrams in Chapter Three, based only on my ugly MS Word versions.

The staff and faculty of Trinity College not only made Trinity a wonderful place to do PhD research, but also contributed significantly to my thinking; on this count, I should mention specifically Justin Stratis, Jamie Davies, David Firth, and, in particular, Jon Coutts, who, in his friendship, interest, and critical engagement, was like a third supervisor for this project. I am also grateful for Alison Walker, Joshua Heavin, Michael Spalione, Bruce Henning, Jeremy Meeks, Michelle Stinson, Andy Stager, and many other current or former students at Trinity who have become friends these last four years; whether arguing in our (virtual) seminars, watching one another’s work develop and contributing where we can, or staying up far too late every night of conference, our friendship has made the journey more joyful and the work far richer.

Portions of Chapters Three and Seven appeared previously and in adapted form in Michael J. Rhodes, “Arranging the Chairs in the Beloved Community: The Politics, Problems, and Prospects of Multi-Racial Congregations in 1 Corinthians and Today,” Studies in Christian Ethics (2019), 510–28; and idem., “‘Forward unto Virtue’: Formative Practices and 1 Corinthians 11:17–34,” Journal for Theological Interpretation II.1 (2017): 119–138. In connection with the Society of Biblical Literature, thanks also are due to Cynthia Shafer-Elliott, Dorothea Erbele-Kuester, and the leadership of the Meals in the HB/OT section, as well as Michael Barram and the leadership of the Missional Hermeneutics section for inviting me to present portions of the present research at the 2017 and 2018 annual meetings, respectively. The feedback and engagement I received was both challenging and invigorating.←xviii | xix→

I cannot imagine a PhD student more blessed in supervision. D. Stephen Long—whose work on theology and economics inspired me long before I started this project—proved to be perfectly equipped to help me get my mind around the immense field of theological ethics and its role in biblical interpretation. In his commitment to scholarship and to the church, Steve has provided a mentor worthy of imitation.

And what I shall I say about Craig Bartholomew? Craig treated me like an old friend years before I became his student; welcomed me into his home; relentlessly encouraged me not only as a researcher, but also as a husband, father, church member, neighbor, and friend; provided feedback and guidance of the most essential kind; and welcomed me into a rich, scholarly community associated with the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology at Cambridge (you know who you are!). Craig has modelled a generosity of spirit in scholarship, a commitment to friendship and the life of the church, and an intoxicating taste for interdisciplinary work that I expect none of his students will ever forget. Nor will I forget the many long, late night chats on streets outside cafes at SBL. May they continue for years to come!

This book, though, is ultimately about formation through practice, about the way that we become who we are through life lived in community. If I have received lavish gifts beyond my deserving in terms of the academic community, I have been equally blessed by my friends outside the academic guild. In particular, I am grateful to the men and women of the Option 105 Winterfest, the annual 4th of the 5th, my South Memphis neighbors, members of our community group there, the staff (past and present) of Advance Memphis, all of those involved with the Chalmers Center, and all of our friends at New City Fellowship-Nairobi and Downtown Church. I am also grateful to those who have pastored me from these marvelous congregations: Richard Rieves, Michael Davis, Chris Davis, Joe Mutuuki, and the late Shafkhat Khan—of whom the world was not worthy.

Nearly last but certainly not least, I owe enormous gratitude and love to my family: to “Aunt Katie,” “Uncle B,” Waverley, and Lenna; to mom and dad in all of their relentless encouragement and support; and to Isaiah, Ames, Nova, and Jubilee for making the sun shine brighter and the sky bluer. But most of all for Rebecca, who is always, endlessly, overwhelmingly better than I could possibly deserve. In you I have not simply found the proverbial “valiant woman;” I have found an irreplaceable friend, an ever-curious conversation partner (even when we’re still talking about practices!), a lover in whom I delight, a co-laborer under the gracious reign of our good king.

Finally and at last, this book is dedicated to Robby Holt: pastor, mentor, scholar, co-worker, and friend. Not because most of my best ideas began with you (which they did!), but because you remain one of my favorite people to work them out with. May we feast often together in the days ahead, and always for the better!



Anchor Bible Commentary


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Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. Edited by James B. Pritchard.


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Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. Revised and edited by Frederick William Danker. University of Chicago Press, 2000.


Brown, Francis. S. R. Driver, and Charles Briggs, James Strong, and Wilhelm Gesenius. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic: Coded with the numbering System from Strong’s Exhaustive concordance of the Bible. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996.←xxi | xxii→


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Encyclopaedia Judaica. Edited by Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoder. 26 vols. New York: MacMillan, 1971–1991.

Eth. nic.

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by H. Rackham. LCL. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934.


Greco-Roman Associations: Texts, Translations, and Commentary. New York: de Gruyter, 2011—. John S. Kloppenborg, Philip A. Harland, and Richard S. Ascough.


Hebrew and Aramic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, and Johann J. Stamm. Translated and edited under the supervision of Mervyn E. J. Richardson. 4 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1994–1999.


Hebrew Bible


Harvard Theological Review


Roussel, Pierre, and Marcel Launey. Inscriptions de Délos: Décrets postérieurs à 166 av. J.-C. (nos. 1497–1524). Dédicaces postérieures à 166 av. J.-C. (nos. 1525–2219). Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1937.


Jewish Publication Society


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JSOT Supp.

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The Journal of Theological Studies


Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.




“On Memory.” In Aristotle. On the Soul. Parva Naturalia. On Breath. Translated by W.S. Hett. LCL. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957.


New Cambridge Bible Commentary


New International Biblical Commentary


The New International Commentary on the New Testament


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New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. Edited by Willem A. VanGemeren. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.


New International Greek Text Commentary←xxii | xxiii→


Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers


New Studies in Biblical Theology


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Old Testament Library


Pillar New Testament Commentary


Scottish Journal of Theology


Aquinas, Thomas. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. 2nd ed. 21 vols. London, UK: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1920–1935.


Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich. Translaed by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 10 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964–1976.


Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Edited by G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren. Translated by John T. Willies et al. 8 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974–2006.


Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament. Edited by Ernst Jenni, with assistance from Claus Westermann. Translated by Mark E. Biddle. 3 vols. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997.


The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. By R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1980.


XXIV, 286
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (January)
Feasting Virtue Ethics Moral Formation Biblical Studies Theological Interpretation Economics and the Bible Deuteronomy 1 Corinthians Formative Feasting Practices and Virtue Ethics in Deuteronomy’s Tithe Meal and the Corinthian Lord’s Supper Michael J. Rhodes
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. XXIV, 286 pp., 4. ill.

Biographical notes

Michael Rhodes (Author)

The Reverend Dr. Michael J. Rhodes (PhD, University of Aberdeen/Trinity College Bristol) is a Lecturer in Old Testament at Carey Baptist College and the co-author of Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give (2018).


Title: Formative Feasting