Tempted In Every Way As We Are

I was thinking about the gospel passage that cites popular opinion to the effect that Jesus was a glutton and a wino this afternoon, and wondering why our visual representations of Jesus never hint at the physical symptoms that might have corroborated such an assessment.
 
Not, that is, that I irreverently wish that our stained glass windows show the unedifying spectacle of a Jesus flushed, red-nosed, and tottering along the road — I can readily imagine that even if we take the gossip-mongers at their word, we have reasons both historical and theological to demur from supposing that Jesus regularly drank to excess.
 
On the other hand, though, all the figures of Jesus that I can call to mind range from emaciated to average in girth. We have the synoptic gospels’ word that Jesus fasted for forty days at the outset of his ministry; that would provide grounds for the “skinny Jesus” tradition. But once Jesus rejoins social life after his testing in the wilderness, we characteristically encounter him at dinner parties, supplying superabundant food for crowds (albeit with no indication that he used it to satisfy his own hunger), rebutting the urgency of fasting for his disciples, and again, being accused of gluttony. All of these provide at least tenuous grounds for thinking of Jesus as a big eater, and stoutness is no sin — so why should these many indications outweigh (pardon the pun) the testing narrative such that I don’t ever see a picture or sculpture of a jolly, round-bellied Savior?

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. One sociological point (I believe it would be) is that I always have taken it for granted that Jesus and his disciples (the twelve and the larger group that probably included women and other men) were walked where ever they went. It is my experience in watching my wife lose weight that doing a lot of walking and eating well does not enhance one’s girth, but causes the body to slim down, and to maintain a low body mass ratio.

  2. I seem to remember from way back that one of the eastern traditions (Coptic?) believed that Jesus was short and bald–I have no idea if I’m recalling that correctly but I’ve always liked having that image in my mind, especially as a contrast to the rugged/romantic Jesus of much Protestant iconography . . . .

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