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Jesus Was Crazy

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Pilate: Look at your Jesus Christ. I'll agree he's mad. Ought to be locked up. But that is not a reason to destroy him. He's a sad little man. Not a king or god. Not a thief. I need a crime!
Mob: Crucify him!

While most works that feature Jesus Christ stick to Jesus Was Way Cool, there are also works where he is portrayed as a bit crazy or even as clinically insane. He may mistake himself for a God, be mistaken for a God, or actually be a real but flawed God.

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The portrayal can come from the narrative itself, or from a character.

Note that while "Jesus Was Crazy" and "Jesus Was Way Cool" are opposites, they can still show up in the same work. Either they contradict each other in some kind of point-counterpoint argument, or they blend together through some kind of Cloud Cuckoolander characterization or Success Through Insanity. If this trope is double subverted, if Jesus is crazy and the son of God, then The Cuckoolander Was Right.

Also, a character who believes that Jesus was not only cool but also divine might feel that you have to choose sides: Either worship Him or hate Him. This argument is derived from "he who is not with me is against me; he who does not gather the flock scatters it." However, the claim of out-right hate ignores the fact that not everyone who can undermine someone or their cause necessarily does so maliciously or intentionally, and it is possible to be well-meaning and have a high view of Jesus without being consistent with the tenets of worship.

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A character might be tempted to argue that Jesus Was Crazy as a kind of Straw Character argument: Taking for granted that if you don't believe the parts of the Gospels where Jesus actually ascended into heaven and all that, then you must still believe the parts where he claimed to be divine, and thus be obliged to consider him a megalomaniac. Of course, atheists, Muslims et cetera who think Jesus was cool prefer to focus on a simplified understanding of The Golden Rule, and that kind of stuff; assuming that the claims of divinity were added after his death — along with the walking on water and similar hard-to-accept accounts.note 

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Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • The Swedish comic Personal-Jesus (with the hyphen in the name) plays a lot with the lighter side of crazy. The name itself is a wordplay: The Swedish word "personal" means "staff" or "human resources" (ergo, personnel) and is pronounced differently from the English word that is spelled the same way. In this quite surreal setting, Jesus Christ can indeed walk on water and everything, but for some reason he works in an ordinary office and creates general mayhem — getting his coworkers drunk as he turns water into wine at the worst possible moments, and so on.
  • Larry Gonick's The Cartoon History of the Universe depicts Jesus as woozy after being "baptized" and held under water too long. In another section he alternates (panel by panel) between thoughtful scholar, mystical parable-speaker, and, well...
    Jesus: (big cheerful grin) Only by drinking my blood and eating my flesh shall ye be saved! Mm!
  • The underground comic God Nose depicts Jesus as a Cloud Cuckoolander. At one point, he decides to become a folk singer and in a later panel, he's shown performing in a club to a Beatnik audience.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Last Temptation of Christ starts out with portraying Jesus as a paranoid schizophrenic who starts preaching because he hears voices in his head. The movie starts with him working as a carpenter building crosses for the Romans and rambling on about how he wants to crucify all the messiahs. The story goes through many plot twists, and the psychiatric perspective gets obsolete after a while - but Jesus being crazy in one way or another remains the only constant throughout the movie. And trying to live a decent life turns out to be the craziest thing of them all.

    Literature 
  • Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man is a definite case of this with a mentally retarded and deformed Jesus that the time traveler winds up replacing so that the stories come out right.
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal is a corner case. Jesus isn't crazy, but he's distracted enough by the whole Son of God thing that he comes off as a bit loopy.
  • Julian, an enemy of Christianity, takes this view. Jesus was just some guy who thought he was the Messiah. He acted out the prophetic requirements, raised followers, and eventually stormed the temple when nothing else worked. Pontius Pilate was right to execute him.note 
  • Right in The Bible itself, one of the four gospels has Jesus' mother Mary and His brothers stepping in to intervene on His behalf, for they were hearing that "He is beside Himself". And frequently, his hearers say things like "he has a demon", an idiomatic way of saying "he's crazy" (since demonic possession was believed to cause insanity).
    • And as Jesus notes, they said similar things about his immediate predecessor:
      For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ note 
  • In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis makes the point that, from the world's perspective, Jesus was crazy.
    He was not at all like the psychologist’s picture of the integrated, balanced, adjusted, happily married, employed, popular citizen. You can’t really be very well 'adjusted' to your world if it says you 'have a devil' and ends by nailing you up naked to a stake of wood.

    Live-Action TV 
  • House once asked for a differential diagnosis on Jesus, and Martha comes up with schizophrenia. The episode itself was about a patient that was very religious, and House believed that the strong convictions were caused by a medical problem.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In John Wick's Thirty, the characters meet several different versions of Jesus. The two most notable are the self-described Gnostic Jesus, who is mundane but a philosophical genius...and Paul's Jesus, who is a psychotic fire-breathing monster the size of a building.

    Theatre 
  • Jesus Christ Superstar is (among other things) built like a point-counterpoint debate regarding who and what Jesus was. While Maria Magdalena and the apostle Simon represent two very different versions of Jesus Was Way Cool, Pontius Pilate goes down the Jesus Was Crazy road — trying to defend Jesus by arguing that he's insane. See page quote. Note that the "cool vs crazy" debate is not about being for or against Jesus. Pilate is trying to save him, while Caiaphas who is trying to get him crucified subscribes to the "Jesus is cool" camp. In the initial scene, Judas is still loyal to Jesus, and yet complains about how Jesus is turning increasingly mentally unstable under the pressure from his believers.
  • The Clive Barker play The History of the Devil portrays Jesus as a complete lunatic who actually talks Satan into arranging his own crucifixion.

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 
  • Ghastly's Ghastly Comic put forward the idea of multiple Jesuses (Jesi?), who tend to represent the various "faces" of Christ as interpreted by his followers and the general public (with the possible exception of Drunk and Bitter Jesus, who is pretty much how Jesus would feel if he were alive to see the way the other Jesuses act). Jesus Was Crazy is Fark.com Jesus, who carries an awful lot of artillery for a guy who said "Blessed are the peacemakers".

    Web Original 
  • The Onion: Jesus may or may not have had a good reason to convert to Islam, but the Christians interviewed about it sure thought he was insane to blaspheme himself like that.
  • The Unbiased History of Rome mentioned Jesus very briefly in the episode "Mad Emperors", but merely as "some Jew with god delusions" who got nailed to a cross, given that the life of some Hebrew in a backwater province wouldn't be relevant to Roman history until much later. The followers of his teachings were still portrayed as an active thorn on Rome's side, but the trope turns out to be subverted as in the episode on Constantine, Jesus himself was portrayed as a Chadly figure, and another incarnation of the pantheon to help ease the transition to Christianity.
  • Zinnia Jones claims that the biblical Jesus was way out of whack, for example in the episode The Meaningless Death Of Jesus.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy: Many episodes - those with spot gags on religion and others focusing on the Christian faith - depict Jesus as immoral, rebellious and at one time not even Christian. In "Family Goy", he even suggests that all religions are the same and that it doesn't matter which one one picks because they're "all complete crap" (to which Brian - offscreen - shouts "Thank you!").

    Real Life 
  • This is a component of the Christian apologist argument called "Lord/Liar/Lunatic", popularised by C. S. Lewis. According to the argument, if we grant that Jesus claimed to be divine (as portrayed in The Four Gospels), then it's fallacious to believe he was merely "a great moral teacher." If said claims aren't true, then either Jesus was lying about being God, or Jesus was crazy, "on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg."
  • Friedrich Nietzsche held a somewhat similar belief: that Jesus was an "idiot". Note that he doesn't mean that Jesus was stupid—rather, that Jesus had a view of life that was detached from reality and perhaps too idealistic. Nietzsche is actually pretty positive on what he believed (on the basis of biblical analysis—which between his training in ancient languages and his upbringing in a family of Protestant ministers he was entirely qualified to do) to be Jesus' true message (a quasi-Buddhist exhortation to the weak and poor to come to terms with and accept their suffering as simply a fact of the human condition rather than a fundamental injustice) and saves his venom for St. Paul.
  • A number of psychiatrists (eg. Charles Binet-Sanglé, Władysław Witwicki, Lemuel K. Washburn) theorized that Jesus' mental health was compromised. There are a number of occasions in the New Testament when Jesus is called insane or "beside himself", and analysis of his speeches and behavior suggests some issue - a bipolar disorder, suicidal depression, frontal lobe epilepsy or paranoid schizophrenia are mentioned. (This would explain one of the bigger mysteries of Jesus as a purely historical figure - per the Gospels, he was tried and executed as a royal pretender, but his disciples were spared, while the standard Roman procedure would be to try and execute all potential co-insurgents along with the leader. The fact that Jesus was, in fact, considered not a rebel leader, but a loud and generally harmless madman, was put forth as an explanation to this.)

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