Some things that I have been reading recently have brought two of my past publications into conversation with one another, in a manner that I never expected. I wrote an article on John 5:18 many years ago, focused on whether Jesus is a rebellious son, in making himself equal to his father. You can read that article online, courtesy of Butler University’s institutional repository. I also wrote a book chapter on the question “What Would Jesus Drink?” which also had “A Glutton and a Drunkard” in the title, for a book with the title Religion and Alcohol: Sobering Thoughts.
Until now, I hadn’t noticed that there was a connection between those two studies, never mind just how direct and potentially interesting the connection between them was.
The accusation that Jesus was “a glutton and drunkard” is mentioned in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. This is not just a generic criticism, but a specific one that relates to the Torah: In Deuteronomy 21:20-23, this language is part of an accusation brought by parents that leads to a death sentence. And interestingly enough, the law immediately following has to do with those who are not merely executed but hung on a pole (as in crucifixion) and the need to bury even them.
We get hints in the Bible that Jesus did not always show respect towards his family in the manner that was expected in accordance with legal and cultural norms. When he called on his followers to not prioritize caring for parents until they were honorably buried (‘let the dead bury their dead’), we must presume that he himself was also practicing what he preached. And so we might ask whether the Gospel of John takes up an accusation leveled at Jesus in relation to his behavior towards Joseph and Mary, and turned it into an accusation about his behavior in relation to his heavenly Father.
I’m not sure that anyone has surveyed the Synoptics and John in relation to this theme of Jesus as one accused of being a disobedient son. I took a look at Joseph Modica’s chapter in Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am? and didn’t see anything that draws connection with the Gospel of John. Any thoughts from readers who work in New Testament studies? Might this be worthy of an article?
Let me end with a cartoon from ASBO Jesus from some years back that is of tangential humorous relation to the theme of this post: