Were Jesus and Dionysus the Same?

John was the last Gospel written, likely at the end of the first century. John is the only gospel to contain the story of Jesus’ turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. And the guests remark about how it is so much better than the first wine that was served. Let’s take an alternative view of this story.

  • Why is this listed first?  John starts off (after the preamble about the Word), with Jesus at the wedding. No virgin birth. No John the Baptist. No forty days in the wilderness. For John, this miracle story must have been significant. But why?

Brian Muraresku wrote a recent book titled The Immortality Key, The Secret History of the Religion with No Name.  In his book, Brian posits two theories about the significance of turning the water into wine at Cana.

  • Connection to the Roman god. The Greek/Roman god of wine was Dionysus. But some of the Greek festivals associated with Dionysus were limited to the upper echelons of society. And even the Roman government was starting to crack down on some of these Dionysian festivals. Muraresku believes the story in John was an attempt to a) make a clandestine connection between Jesus and Dionysus and b) to make it obvious that Jesus was a god for all classes of people.
  • And then there’s the wine itself. The land of Canaan was well-know for its wine production. It was also known for its herb production; more specifically, hallucinogenic herbs. Muraresku believes that what made the wine at Cana so special was the extra psychedelic kick coming from a few well portioned additives to the wine jars. 

Isn’t that a hoot? But what if .. just what if … it is true? The Chief Editor has sent a query to reputable New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, to get a reality check. We’ll report back in a future edition.

How is the Gospel of John Different?

Question of the week:  What makes the Gospel of John and the epistles of John different from the other New Testament writings?

We’ll focus this week on the Gospel of John. 

  • The stories are different. Not all of them, but some.Only in John do we find the story about the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding, and raising Lazarus from the dead.
  • No parables. No pithy quotable quotes or stories. Rather, Jesus talks in longer discourses. We also get Jesus spending a lot of time emphasizing that he is the one sent from heaven. Reinforcing that view, Jesus’ miracles are described as ‘signs’ in order to prove that what Jesus says is true. This is in sharp contrast to several verses in the other three gospels, where Jesus asks people not to tell anyone after he performs a miracle.
  • Multiple authors? Chapter 21 (the final one) appears to be an add-on. It does not flow from the end of Chapter 20 and is written in a different style. Scholars speculate it was possibly added later to round out the stories of Jesus’ resurrection. And while we are talking about writing style, the entire prologue about Jesus being the Word of God is written in a completely different (poetic) style from the other chapters of John. John never calls Jesus the “Word” anywhere else. Was this another add on inserted by a cleric in the second century who liked poetry?

The more we dig into this stuff, the more fascinating it gets. The Chief Editor has been reading a book by Bart Ehrman entitled Misquoting Jesus:  The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. Today’s bullets were largely taken from Dr. Ehrman’s descriptions about John in this book. The big take-away from this book so far:  We have no original manuscripts of any books from the New Testament. The earliest fragment (and it is a fragment) is dated around 200 CE. So with all the hand-copying and ‘editing’ over the centuries, it’s hard to tell what the original texts actually said.