Jesus: A Gluttonous Drunken Disobedient Son?

Jesus: A Gluttonous Drunken Disobedient Son? June 24, 2018

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:




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  • If Jesus were being accused of gluttony, as reported in the gospels, I wonder if that would mean (and I realize this may not be PC) that Jesus was fat?

    He’s so often portrayed as a gaunt, skinny figure; what if the artists are wrong and he’s chubby?

    • Tom

      Imagine a Jesus who looks like a little fat Buddha .

      • I think that’s a very comforting image. The Buddha figure was full, passive, content – at one with the universe.

        I’m not so fond of the Jesus depicted as a white catwalk model.

        • Tom

          I like the image of Jesus enraged and animated. I think he had anger issues. Got pissed at his Mother for cock blocking too.

  • John MacDonald

    I find it interesting when Jesus in the Gospel of John rebukes his mother (John 2:4, Ti emoi kai soi, gunai), reminding the reader of of the woman who rebuked Elijah (1 Kings 17:8-24 LXX -Ti emoi kai soi ). In these two stories, pitchers are miraculously filled and because of this the woman gains faith in Elijah, just as the disciples gain faith in Jesus. It is interesting that the Gospel of John links the key event which brings the disciples to faith in Jesus with the rebuking of Mary by Jesus. By Jesus calling Mary “woman” (gunai) rather than “mother” (meter), perhaps he is dismissing her authority over him, reminiscent of Matthew 12:46-50.

    • Gary M

      I think it is much more probable that these stories are fictitious inventions for literary/theological purposes than actual accounts of the historical Jesus.

      • John MacDonald

        With my comment, I wasn’t trying to bracket the historicity of the wine miracle pericope through typology (as Bob Price does), but rather investigate the episode as to what it might teach us of the Gospel of John’s view of Jesus in terms of the framework Dr. McGrath provided of “Jesus: A Gluttonous Drunken Disobedient Son?” I think we can distill information about how the author of the Gospel of John viewed Jesus even if there is reason to doubt the historicity of elements in a particular pericope.

        • Gary M

          Yes, I agree.

      • The Mouse Avenger

        I personally disagree with that view, but you’re nevertheless entitled to your opinion. 🙂

    • I’m King – my mother is not my superior.

      • John MacDonald

        I have no idea what that video collage you posted in response to my comment means, but I am thankful you took the time to respond. It’s always fun to get votes and comments in response to posting. Psychologists say people become addicted to things like Facebook and blogs because the fact that responses can “pop up” at any time makes the medium (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc.) like slot machines in a casino that you are waiting to all of the sudden “hit the jackpot” with.

    • Nica

      And yet, it’s one of two incidents wherein Jesus changes his mind, both with a woman as catalyst. Here at Cana, despite Jesus’ words, he finally acts to do Mary’s bidding, sort of like in the Parable of the Two Sons, where one agrees to do his father’s bidding but doesn’t, & the other verbally refuses & yet carries through the job.

      The other instance of Jesus’ change of mind is, of course, the Syrophoenician woman, whose daughter Jesus initially refuses to heal. Yet at the woman’s witty repartee about the dogs under the table eating the crumbs, Jesus does an about face.

  • Tom

    I often wondered about Jesus calling his mother, “woman” then let my questions be quieted by the notion that “woman” was a term of respect in that society as I’ve often read – also written without citation or logical argument, I might add. I quietly wondered why a Patriarchal society would use a term intended to place females in a lesser status, as an honourable salutation.
    However, Mark 3: 20-35 may be a deep clue to what is going on with Jesus. He appears to be of great concern to people who have called his family to come do an “intervention”. Jesus refuses, rejects his blood-relatives and mother then adopts all who follow God. A VERY bad boy indeed. I’d love to read an article with more on this.

    • All people kneel before the King, male and female, or they forfeit their souls – that is now and always the rule on Earth.

      “A talking burning bush told me to shoot the Pharaoh” is not an acceptable excuse for being a terrorist. The gospels call you Jesus’ slaves because you’re the King’s slaves. If you are unwilling to serve the King, you have no use to God as a species.

      “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” – Matt 5:13

      • Please stop with the irrelevant nonsensical comments. Thank you in advance for complying with my efforts to keep this blog a place for serious conversation.

        • You’re a professor of religion so I’ll presume you’re literate enough to understand basic sentences.

          I’ll tell you once exactly who I am: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.