Q: One of my Bible study groups asked me if Jesus danced. I know there is a time for everything under the sun (Son) but is it said or insinuated anywhere that Jesus danced?
A: Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven ... (v. 1)” including “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.... (v. 4)” However, this is what we would call descriptive, not prescriptive, language. In other words, these events and activities happen, but not necessarily all of them in like manner for all people. For one born mute, there might never be “a time to speak (v. 7)” and someone who’s suffered paralysis may never enjoy a dance.
Even among “ordinary” people, the balance and distribution of these items varies. Teachers and students both may speak and “keep silence (v. 7)” — however, while learning may take place with both sides quiet, all speaking at once rarely advances education. Furthermore, some of these activities are specialized. One who farms (v. 2) may never engage in tailoring (v. 7) or vice versa.
Regarding Jesus, some people of His day may have inferred that He danced from His words and some of His other activities. The marriage at Cana, the site of “the first of his signs, (John 2:11)” where He turned water to wine, likely included dancing as part of the festivities. Dancing could have happened at some of the other celebrations Jesus attended — we just don’t know for sure.
Jesus invoked dancing while condemning His own generation, which tried to impose its own will on God and society. Responding to comparisons between Himself and the imprisoned John the Baptist, He said, “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ (Luke 7:31-32)”
Christ’s following words show that many considered Him to be too much of a “party animal” to be any sort of religious teacher or holy man: “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children. (vv. 33-35)”
We must remember that even if Jesus did dance as an adult, He likely only did so with other men. While boys and girls may have played together, respectable men and women normally danced in groups with their own sex. If there were any “coed” dances of that day, they likely were as exotic or erotic as a modern square dance.
The glaring New Testament exception to this type of formal, group dancing also involved John the Baptist. Herod imprisoned him because John condemned Herod’s “wife-swapping” when Herod took his brother’s wife Herodias as his own. She decided to end John’s moral diatribes permanently by playing up to Herod’s lusts with her daughter’s dancing (see Mark 6:14-29). While Mark doesn’t give the specifics, it seems that the ruler was “moved” more by the eroticism than by the artistry of the young woman’s dance.
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.
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