What is the Bible? Part 64: Eat and Drink What?
Rob, can you explain whats going on when Jesus is talking about drinking his blood and eating his flesh in John chapter 6? I mean I get that it’s about his death and resurrection but is there context that I’m missing?
There’s a good chance the context you’re referencing has something to do with the Greek god Dionysius (Also called by his Roman name Bacchus, as in Bacchanalia). Dionysius was the god of wine and fertility and feasting and agriculture and later the stage. (It was believed that he invented wine, so, you know, party.)
And how did people believe you get the power of Dionysius? You eat his flesh and drink his blood. That was actually a fairly common practice among ancient religions-they believed you could ingest the power of the gods in a sacred meal.
I was hiking in Turkey several years ago and our guide took us to the ruins of a massive banquet hall that was used for Dionysian feasts where people would gorge themselves for hours.
Now, a question: Who is the Gospel of John written to?
People living in Asia Minor (Present day Turkey).
And where in the ancient world was Dionysius very popular?
So what is the author of the gospel of John doing here?
He’s telling his audience the Jesus story in language and symbols they would understand and be familiar with…
So yes, I think there’s some context there in John 6.
Which raises an interesting question: What’s the point?
Because with Dionysius, you ate his flesh and drank his blood so that you would be more full of the life of the gods. It was something you did for you.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses similar language but in reference to sacrifice, to him giving himself away for the healing of the world. There’s a pattern, a point, a path that Jesus continually calls people to, and it involves each of us giving ourselves to the healing of the world in his name. It’s about something much bigger than any one of us.
So in John 6 the symbols and language would have been a familiar entry point for the audience, but the meaning and point are much different.