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Austin Cline

Did Mary Ever Spank Jesus?

By February 25, 2006

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There are certain things which people probably aren't supposed to ask about Jesus' life growing up; one of the most interesting may be whether Mary ever spanked Jesus. I don't know what the social conventions among Jews of the time were, but corporal punishment was probably expected. Did Jesus ever do anything that merited punishment? Did Mary ever punish Jesus?

In ArtNet, Lewish Kachur writes an article about surrealist art which includes an image of the 1926 Max Ernst painting The Blessed Virgin Chastises the Infant Jesus Before Three Witnesses. If you look closely, you’ll notice that Mary still has her halo on, so none of her holiness is lost due to her spanking Jesus; he, on the other hand, has lost his halo and it’s laying on the ground. He must have been very naughty. It looks like he’s getting a pretty vigorous spanking, too, if the coloration of his thighs and buttocks is any indication.

According to Antiques and the Arts:

“The Blessed Virgin Chastises the Infant Jesus Before Three Witnesses: A.B., P.E. and the Artist,” a 1926 oil painting, shows a muscular Virgin spanking the infant Jesus, while Breton, Éluard and Ernst look on. Viewers found this large picture scandalous. It was denounced by Ernst’s own father and the archbishop of Cologne, who had the exhibition in which it was shown closed down. Today, this “blasphemous narrative,” says Rewald, is among the “icons of Surrealism.”

Why is Mary wearing a red top?

Interesting theological questions are raised by this question. If Jesus as a child never misbehaved at all, does that mean that he was less than fully human because he simply didn’t lead a normal childhood? If he did misbehave, how does that differ from sinning? If Mark spanked Jesus, was it really OK for her to be in a position of chastising God? Does she really have that authority?


Quick Poll: Assuming that they existed, do you suppose that Mary every spanked Jesus?

  1. Yes, she must have regularly beat the fear of God into him. That's why he was so repressed as an adult.
  2. Occasionally, but she must have been a very gentle mother.
  3. She wanted to, but was afraid Jesus would strike her dead.
  4. No, it never would have occurred to her to give a beating to the Son of God and Savior of Mankind.
  5. I don't know.
  6. I don't care.
Click an option to vote, or View Current Poll Results


Topics in Religion & Religious Studies:

October 2, 2010 at 10:41 am
(1) Patricia says:

The dilemma is this: If Jesus ever did anything naughty, wouldn’t that be a sin? Aren’t spankings usually punishments for doing something sinful, unless the parent makes a mistake? If Jesus committed a single sin in His lifetime, He couldn’t have qualified to redeem us on the Cross.

October 16, 2010 at 11:04 am
(2) Peter Moore says:

Leaving aside the confusion between naughtiness and sinfulness (not to mention the fact mothers often smack infants out of their own frustration rather for any other reason), Ernst’s picture can be seen as making an important orthodox theological point that the Archbishop of Cologne should have spotted – namely, that Jesus was a fully human individual fully involved in the trials of human life. He was not a divine being disguised as or masquerading as a human. This is the almost impossible paradox of the Incarnation. Ernst was parodying all those standard Madonnas with near perfect infants which hang in art galleries, which tend to reinforce that two-dimensional image of Christ that pious Christians find it easy to believe in and pious atheists easy to disbelieve in.

It is also worth noting that in Hinduism, the child Krishna (an incarnation of the God Vishnu) is represented in art and storytelling as a boisterous and naughty little boy getting into all sorts of trouble — and all without committing any of the sins that some believers and disbelievers worry about!

Peter Moore

March 20, 2013 at 6:36 pm
(3) Jim in Texas says:

I’m a Roman Catholic but I think the Archbishop over-reacted to the Ernst painting which is one of my favorites. Certainly the Scriptures left out a lot of details of the personal family life of Jesus no one will really know but them until we meet Him personally and ask Him. There’s a lot of indication in His parables and known life story that Jesus may very well have wanted to get spanked for the same reasons God Almighty would want to become a human being and get flogged and crucified. Humility is a Christian virtue. God wanted to be treated like any other
human being, God loves life in all its aspects like an author loves their own story. St Paul tells us “Whom the Lord loves He chastises.” He may very well have been spanked that time when He was 12 and had His parents looking all over Jerusalem for Him which sounds like a pretty plausible reason to spank somebody if they were your kid and you wanted them to know you were worried about losing them, I mean
if he didn’t get spanked for that it would be like saying “go ahead get
lost kid, we don’t care”. wouldn’t it? Some things may seem wrong
if you look at them one way but right if you look at them another way. Jesus chased money lenders out the temple with a whip, he got whipped. He didn’t seem to have a problem with that, unlike being
executed for dissenting from a Dark Age theocracy which He
chose to play along with but then came back to life thumbing His
Divine Nose at His clearly unjust persecutors ever since for it.

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