A Good Vintage

I am not Jesus though I have the same initials.
I am the man who stays home and does the dishes.

I’d like to make this water wine, though it’s impossible.
I’ve got to get these dishes dry.
Dishes — Pulp 1998

Jarvis was joking when he referred to the initials. “Christ” isn’t a surname, it’s derived from the Greek translation of the Hebrew for “Messiah”, and literally means “annointed”. Jesus Christ is “Jesus the annointed one”, or “Jesus the Messiah”. In his own time, presumably he’d have used the standard Jewish format of something like “Yeshua ben Yusef” (Jesus, son of Joseph), although some mean minded people may have called him “son of Mary”, referring to the local gossip about his illegitimacy.

Water Into WineHe never was “annointed” though. That refers to the ceremonial annointing with oil of a King of the Jews, which is what the Messiah was supposed to be. Will be, according to Jewish belief. Jesus certainly was baptized in the Jordan by John (an episode which the Bible authors had to write up carefully, in case it appeared that John was the more important figure). But that’s not really annointing. And then there was that mysterious episode when the unnamed woman washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and annointed them with oil. I’ve read that passage again, and I still can’t quite work out what was going on.

I can’t turn water into wine either, but I’m generally happy to try it the other way round. That story in the Bible has Jesus magically producing wine for the guests at a wedding, at the request of his mother. The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail raised the first questions about this that I came across. (That was the book, that wasn’t pillaged to create Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, according to a very surprising court judgement.)

In THBATHG, the authors ask why Jesus was expected to look after the guests at a wedding, and why Mary was ordering him around at it. They suggest that it must have been the wedding of Jesus himself. Well, maybe, but to me, Mary’s attitude sounds more like the Mother of the Bride. Since there’s no mention of Mary’s husband at this time, and she’s travelling around without him, I assume that Joseph is dead or gone, and that Jesus, as the eldest son, is acting head of the family.

(Quite early on, Chistians had decided that sex was evil, and therefore that Mary must never have done it, and therefore that she must never have had any other children. That was in direct contradiction to the text of the Bible, which mentions that Jesus had at least one sister (name unknown) and at least four brothers, James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude. Nevertheless, many Christians still engage in the verbal and logical gymnasics required to assert both Mary’s virginity and the literal truth of the Bible.)

At the end of the story of the Wedding at Cana, the Bible says: “Jesus and his mother, brothers, and disciples went to Capernaum and stayed there a few days.” No mention of a sister, so perhaps that was the wedding of the family’s only girl.

There’s no need to go all Da Vinci Code and speculate whether the sister of Jesus had children, and therefore there is the possibility of people descended from close relatives, his nephews or neices. The early Christian writer Eusabius mentions that two of Jude’s sons were arrested and interrogated during the persecution under the Emperor Domitian, so the existence of nephews is documented. But as far as I know, that’s the last mention of any family of Jesus.


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