Many people think that Jesus may have been a homebrewer. I have heard that when the Greeks first translated the bible from ancient Hebrew, that they lacked a word for beer and thus substituted the Greek word for wine in its place, perhaps thinking what difference would it make, an alcoholic drink is an alcoholic drink. I’m not sure this is directly on point, but the article Beer, Barley and [Hebrew symbols] in the Hebrew Bible certainly shows that this would have been quite possible and that there is some confusion about translations of this type for centuries.
So when Jesus turned the water into wine (in the Gospel of John 2:1-11), perhaps he was simply a homebrewer and making beer for the wedding party. It certainly seems more plausible to take vats of water and make beer out them than magically turn one liquid into a completely different one. It’s my understanding that the priests of the day would have been the ones who possessed the knowledge of how to make ancient beer so it follows that Jesus would have known this ancient art, as well. That’s probably why Jamie Floyd’s new Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, Oregon has “Jesus Was a Homebrewer” printed on the back of his brewery t-shirts. And no less a beer luminary than Michael Jackson has also ruminated on this subject.
But while I’m very open to this possibility and believe it makes far more sense than the conventional story, I gather that many people of a more religious bearing than myself do not look upon this debate with anything but contempt. My understanding of fundamentalism is that many adherents refuse to entertain the idea that mistranslations may have occurred because they believe the translators themselves were divinely inspired and somehow led by the hand of god in their work. Whatever your own take on this theory, it follows that religion and beer are generally not fast friends, notwithstanding many christians do enjoy a pint from time to time. So I was mildly amused when I saw the new ad campaign for this year’s holiday season by the Churches Advertising Network (or CAN), an English group whose mission, in their own words, is to be “an independent, ecumenical group of Christian communicators which exists to provide high quality national Christian advertising campaigns, especially around major festivals, and to provide the means for local churches to share in and receive the benefit of such national campaigns.”
Apparently each year, CAN creates an ad campaign around Christmas to try to bring people back into the fold. “Previous CAN campaigns include a poster depicting Jesus as the revolutionary leader Che Guevara and one suggesting Mary was having a “bad hair day” when she discovered she was pregnant.”
This year’s campaign features a pint glass with the image of Jesus in the Brussels lace stuck to the side of the empty glass and a MySpace.com website for Jesus. CAN chairman Francis Goodwin said he hoped the poster and accompanying radio adverts would spark a debate about religion.
“The message is subtle but simple – where is God in all the boozing at Christmas?” said Goodwin.
“For many, Christmas is just drinking and partying and God is excluded, yet many young people are interested in finding deeper meaning and exploring faith.”
The poster is a nod to the occasional discoveries of holy images in everyday objects, from the face of Jesus in a frying pan, toast or fish finger, his mother Mary on a toasted cheese sandwich and even Mother Teresa in a sticky bun.
According to the group’s literature, here is their take on this image:
This year’s poster picks up on the current media preoccupation with finding images of Jesus in everything from egg yolks to currant buns. Next to an empty beer glass in which a face can be seen are the words “Where will you find him?” and pointing to the web address myspace.com/isthisjesus.
The poster aims to provoke thought and debate about where and how people find God. The myspace.com webspace will include a link to the rejesus website, which has creative features and reliable information on the Christian faith. Rejesus is supported by all the mainstream UK churches.
So why the image of an empty beer glass? Francis Goodwin, Chair of the Churches Advertising Network (CAN) says: “The message is subtle, but simple: where is God in all the boozing at Christmas? For many, Christmas is about drinking and partying, and God is excluded. Yet many young people are interested in finding deeper meaning and exploring faith. We hope the link to myspace.com will offer a fresh venue for them to discuss their feelings and debate the issues.”
Richard Johnston and Mark Gilmore, who produced the poster at Radioville, the ad agency for the campaign, say…
“We took the traditional silly-season news story in which people find images of Jesus in the side of trees, in a slice of toast or even within the bubbles of cheese on a pizza, and developed a number of new images showing Jesus’ face in unexpected places. Because of the season, CAN chose the beerglass route, where Jesus’ face is captured in the froth running down the side of an empty pint glass. The responses expected on myspace.com when the campaign launches should be quite illuminating.”
Yes, they should be quite “illuminating.” It will quite interesting to see what people say about this. I can’t imagine many American fanatics being very happy about this since so many neo-prohibitionists are also highly religious. One bit of unintentional humor is that when you visit the MySpace page, Jesus has “0” friends. Jesus has no friends? I’m sure that will change shortly, but for now I feel kinda bad for him. Perhaps I should buy him a beer.