Britain’s biggest bakery apologized after replacing the traditional baby Jesus in the manger with a sausage roll in a nativity scene. Photo via Greggs

Greggs' portrayal of Jesus as a sausage roll echoes the Gospel of John, says biblical studies expert

(The Conversation) — With more than 1,000 outlets across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, Greggs, the baker, is a national institution. It’s not uncommon for queues to form in some towns and cities as the daily doughnuts, cheese and onion pasties and steak bakes come out of the ovens. But it is the sausage roll that is the star turn.

Now though, it seems it is the star that Greggs took too far. For Britain’s biggest bakery has had to apologize after it replaced the traditional baby Jesus in the manger with its famed product in a nativity scene. The image was used to promote its Advent calendar and, the company says, wasn’t meant to cause offense.

Well, regardless of intentions, the image, with three wise men reverently surrounding a golden sausage roll in a manger, caused quite an uproar.

Many Christian Twitter users were at the forefront of this backlash against the image, tapping into the false narrative of the persecution of Christians in Western countries including the U.K. and U.S., and the idea that there is a “war on Christmas.”

While many of the “war on Christmas” debates focus on the secularization of the winter holiday, in this instance the attention was on a private company supposedly making light of the baby Jesus for profit.

One organization, the right-wing pressure group the Freedom Association, led by Simon Richards, called for a boycott of Greggs as a result of the image.

The viral growth of the hashtag #boycottGreggs has prompted the bakery to issue a formal apology. “We’re really sorry to have caused any offence, this was never our intention,” said a spokesperson.

'My flesh is meat indeed'

However, what might not be apparent at first glance is just how appropriate this debate about Jesus-as-sausage-roll is in light of the Gospels — and the Gospel of John, in particular. Although the Gospel of John doesn’t describe the nativity scene that we find in Luke and Matthew, it is a Gospel intent on describing Jesus as a food.

In one well-known scene, after he has fed the 5,000 on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus launches into a speech known as the “Bread of Life Discourse”. John’s Gospel uses several metaphors to describe Jesus here, including both bread and meat – and scholars have argued that Jesus means what he says.

Giovanni Lanfranco, Miracle of the Bread and Fish (1620-1623).
Wikimedia Commons

First Jesus declares: “I am the living bread.” Those listening to him are understandably confused, since they don’t see a loaf of bread in front of them but “Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know.” When Jesus hears them doubting his claims, he repeats his claim three times, finally stating explicitly that “the bread … is my flesh”.

After this conversation, Jesus makes a second claim about his body; this time, that it is flesh to be eaten. In the King James Version, Jesus emphatically declares: “My flesh is meat indeed.” Even if we accept a metaphorical reading of Jesus’s words, there is no question that John the Evangelist understood Jesus in edible terms.

Offense and the Gospels

If Jesus as bread and meat is biblical in its origins, it might be surprising to see that the outrage over these claims is not unique to the current uproar around the Greggs advert.

The Gospel of John first describes people’s disbelief of what Jesus says – they doubt he is the bread he claims to be. But the real outrage comes when Jesus declares that he’s made of meat, and that people should be eating him. Even his followers, his disciples, have trouble with this: “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’” Jesus, seeing that what he’s said has offended them, doubles down on his claims – and some of his (nameless) disciples decide to leave him.

Not unlike the current furor over Jesus the Sausage Roll, the Gospel of John depicts uproar and offense at Jesus being compared to food. It seems that comparing Jesus to food has a long history of causing outrage, then, but that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong – the Bible itself recognizes both the comparison and the ensuing offense.

War on Christmas

Paradoxically, then, Greggs has actually provided a scripture-inspired vision of the nativity that Christians often complain is increasingly absent in the run-up to Christmas.

The ConversationWhile there is no real war on Christmas, those anxious about what they perceive as a lack of Jesus in the advent season should take another look at the Greggs ad, which places a biblical understanding of Jesus right in the centre.

(M J C Warren is a lecturer in biblical and religious studies at the University of Sheffield. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.)


  1. Mooting this discussion:

    From Professor Gerd Ludemann’s book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416, “Anyone in search of the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John……This verdict is the consensus among New Testament scholars.”

    “Since “the higher criticism” of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] “[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,”[5] and date it to 90-100.”

    “The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle.”

    See also

    And a Merry Mythmas to all and to all goodnight!!

  2. “I read the news today, oh boy.” Hear that, M J C Warren? John Lennon’s moaning and groaning on the radio no sooner than I finished reading this … whatever this is to you guys over at The CON-versation. So quiz me already and get this “CON-versation” over with.

    TRUE OR FALSE: “Jesus-as-sausage-roll is … the Gospel of John”.

    FALSE. Dumb right, it’s false.

    TRUE OR FALSE: Starving, we go to the fridge, and go, like, “[Food] … Jesus … food.”

    FALSE. Dumb right, it’s false.

    TRUE OR FALSE: “1,000 outlets[-strong] … Greggs … sausage roll … famed product”, “Jesus … repeats … claim[ing]”, “is my flesh … My flesh is [Greggs … sausage roll] indeed.”

    FALSE. Dumb right, it’s false.

  3. Excellent self-authenticating word-salad.

    Now give a 3-point summary of John’s gospel. You have 24 hours. And no cheating. Actually reading the chapters & verses therein, much less grasp them, is not mandatory. Biases & preconceptions are permissible. Dumb right, permissible.

  4. Well, Jesus’s face and profile seems to regularly show up on food products.

  5. Since only 10% of brits attend church, I don’t think Greggs need to fear a mass boycott. I was most amused by the sausage roll – it’s made of PORK after all!

  6. “in this instance the attention was on a private company supposedly making light of the baby Jesus for profit.”

    That pretty much describes A number of professional Christians of a certain sort.

  7. So via “The Conversation” the author’s announcement and objective assessment of Christians is; they perceive themselves as victims, with a martyr complex. Secondly he doubles down by using Christmas as an example of empiracal evidence of their paranoia by denying there isn’t any societal dissonance in how Christians and Secularists celebrate Christmas in the public space. That is quite a conversation, well done.

  8. While there is no real war on Christmas,
    Your Lying Eyes!

  9. How many homosexuals “make light of the baby Jesus for profit” by suing Christians who do not agree with their choice of sin? They use Jesus for profit more than this person.

  10. An interesting commentary on the discussion:

    Benson Commentary

    John 6:51. I am the living bread — Because it was a matter of infinite importance to his hearers that they should form a just judgment of his ability to save them, and believe in him as the Saviour of the world, he affirmed a third time that he was himself the living bread, which came down from heaven to make and keep men alive to God. and render them immortal; and that all who did eat of it should live for ever, because he was about to give them his flesh to eat, by making it an expiation for the sins of the world. The intelligent reader will observe that there is a beautiful gradation in our Lord’s discourse. The first time that he called himself the bread of life, (John 6:35,) he assigned the reason of the name somewhat obscurely: He that cometh to me shall never hunger, &c. The second time he called himself the bread of life, (John 6:47,) he spake more plainly: He that believeth on me hath everlasting life; therefore, I am the bread of life. And by connecting this with the affirmation, (John 6:46,) that he was the only teacher of mankind that had ever personally seen, and conversed intimately with, the Father, he intimated that he gave life to men by his doctrine, being on that account also the bread of life. The third time he called himself bread, he added to the name the epithet of living; not only because he gives life to men by quickening their souls, raising their bodies from the dead, and making them eternally happy, but because he giveth them life in these senses, by means of his human nature, which was not an inanimate thing, like the manna, but a living substance. For he told them plainly, that the bread which he would give them was his flesh, which he would give for the life of the world — And spake of men’s eating it in order to its having that effect. But the meaning of this expression he had directed them to before, when, in calling himself the bread of life, he always joined believing on him as necessary to men’s living by him. Wherefore to eat, in the remaining part of this discourse, is to believe. See Macknight.

  11. It is NOT a false narrative that the persecution of Christians in the West is becoming an evident reality…if the same standards of persecution are applied to them as others apply to themselves in present culture. It seems every category and sub-category of self distinctive souls is crying the blues over the unfairness of their treatment by some other set of souls. Apart from that argument, if the author’s analysis of the Gregg’s kerfuffle is not tongue in cheek, then he is the most absurdly tone deaf commentator on both the subject of scripture and traditional customs I have yet to see in this venue.

  12. Higher criticism is the effort of “scholars” removed from historical events by millennia purporting to know more about actual events than the people who experienced them. Q.E.D..

  13. “Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. “- Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years.
    See also

    You will have to read the studies of contemporary historians and NT scholars to see how they decide the authenticity of historical events and passages. Rigorous conclusions rely on the number of independent attestations, the time of the publications, the content as it relates to the subject and time period, and any related archaeological evidence. Professors JD Crossan and G. Ludemann’s studies are top notch in this regard. If you don’t have copies, put them on your Mythmas gift list.

  14. That MJC Warren is actually employed as a lecturer in biblical and religious studies and writes such dross does absolutely nothing for the reputation of Sheffield University.

  15. It doesn’t matter what the point of the commercial was. All that matters is that they used something holy and profaned’ it with mockery to sell a product. That product in fact is also something that is against the Mosaic Law when it came to foods not to be eathn by the Israelites. That indeed would have included Jesus during his earthly life.

  16. Have you ever watched scamvangelists on TV? Have you ever heard of people voting for Moore only because he is a so called christian? Have you every Heard of Wesley Goodman, Tony Perkins, and a long long list of others?

  17. Hello to you Ben and thank you for commenting

    Yes, I am well aware of thosefrauds. Though I am not getting the point you are making in regard to my comment.

    Scripture most definitely warned against the ‘false preachers and teachers’ that would come even in Jesus’ name. Those ones you mention are but a few of them. The other sad reality is that many ppl want those false teachers to be speaking truth. Also, many of those ppl that listen to those frauds actively ignore such Christians as myself that tells them they are being misled. That most certainly puts quite a bit of the responsibility on them along with the false teachers that are swindleing them.

  18. Hello to you Tattoo and thank you for commenting

    I know it sounds like ‘knit picking’ but that would be less an issue since the ‘Law’ was fulfilled upon the death and ultimate resurrection of Jesus.

    My issue would be with ppl celebrating the day and calling it ‘Easter’. I also find it deeply disrespectful that such ppl calling themselves ‘Christians’ dare to celebrate a false birth date ‘religously’ every single year on that date but when it comes to the literal date of Jesus’ death it is common practice for them to move that celebration of the date to the weekend that they can partake of tradition they have come to hold to on Friday and Sunday. So the next time they tell you they are observing the death of Christ just look to the sky that night and see it is a full moon or not. If it isn’t then you know they have the wrong date. As a matter of fact, you are sure to hear of the Jews being at a synagogue on the correct night since the death of Jesus did coincide with Nisan 14 which is part of the ‘Passover’ from back during the days of the Israelites being brought out of Egypt by Jehovah God. Unfortunately too many Jews disregard Jesus as the God sent Savior/Messiah according to the Hebrew texts.

  19. You mean anything other than Christianity and it’s Northern European flavor it as the dominant faith and crude is seen as persecution to those expecting privilege.

    It is not the same as with other faiths or versions of it in this culture because of the lack of history of being deliberately ignoring or attacked as they were.

  20. My point was that there are lots of people who say they are Christians, and that claim to honor a certain set of values. Some of them make quite a good living at it, in fact But you can see that a lot of their choices involved ignoring those values in favor of convenience, profit, power, and dominion over the lives of other people.

    Trump is the perfect example. Divorced, remarried, adultery, looking at women with lust, a wife you can see naked on the internet , rich, unconerned about the poor in his actions, stiffing people left and right, threatening war with another nuclear power, abolishing healthcare for millions with nothing to replace it, and on and on and on and on and on. Yet all of that is excused because…well, why? If he said he was gay, but otherwise said and did exactly the same things, evangelicals wouldn’t have voted for him in a million years, because he violated their “values.”

  21. What is it that is holy here? Are those plaster images holy? Is the little wooden manger holy? When everything is arrange like a Hallmark card, do these images become holy? Supposing a child made the nativity scene out of Lego blocks, would that be holy? I contend the objects themselves are not holy, only the attitude with which we approach them gives them holiness (or not). The author uses the Gospel of John to expand our understanding of what this image can mean; he/she shows us that even this could be approached in such a way as to find holiness in it, whether the advertiser intended it or not. To declare statures as intrinsically holy is to risk idolatry. Likewise profanity is something we bring to objects based on out attitude. Ask yourself what is it in you that takes offense. Where does that come from? I think the way the nativity was portrayed shocked us into rediscovering something that many have lost.

  22. Thanks for the info. If the law was fulfilled by the death and resurrection of Jesus, then all abominations in Leviticus are no longer abominations? As regarding Passover, it is celebrated on the 14 th day of Nisan and is based on the Lunar calendar. It is not always on a Thursday, So Holy Thursday is off.

  23. The only thing religious about this web site is its false name. It’s anti-Christian.

  24. Every religion is anti christian by definition. Even Christianity, as far as I can tell.

  25. The bacon sandwich and the shrimp cocktail abominations are no longer abominations, because people will have their bacon and shrimp, and whenever the Bible says something inconvenient, it must mean something else entirely.

    The gay abomination is always an abomination because gays are icky.

  26. Does the sausage in a sausage roll have to be made from pork?

  27. It is a website for news about religion. It is not a Christian website.

  28. You apparently have not yet seen the new same-sex Manger sets available…your choice of either two Josephs or two Mary figures…Three wise men dressed flamboyantly too !!

  29. satan had to try to counterfeit that sooner or later.

  30. And a merry Mythmas to all to all goodnight!!

  31. Lol, a bit of Christmas cheer. But you’ll never tamp the outrage of Christians for whom outrage over everything is both a virtue and an addictive pleasure.besides, Protestants don’t buy that body and blood business about the Eucharist. The Bible is literal except when it supports the Pre-Reformation understanding of the Eucharist. You’ve got your right wing and left wing Cafeteria Catholics and you have you right wing cafeteria Bibleists.

  32. If Jesus said he was meat for the eating it would not have been pork, given that he was a good Jew. This article failed to address that issue.

  33. Once again,

    The Apostles’ Creed 2017: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

  34. When the Temple in Jerusalem, the living presence of God on earth for Jews and Christians, was destroyed in 70 AD, the remaining Jewish rabbis in Israel were allowed by the Romans to meet to devise a Judaism without the Temple. They delocalized, universalized the presence of God on earth in the Torah Scroll, hanwritten without error or correction The Christians delcaized,, universalized the presence of God on earth in the Eucharist. The Gospel of John was written to connect this version of Christianity to the life of Christ. You might say that modern Judaiism and Eucharist-centered Christianity are sister religions, born non-identical twins in 70 AD. Later a branch of Christianity localized the presence of God in the individual believer, in process of being reborn, or in the down pouring of the Holy Spirit in a Pentecost that never ceased.

  35. That is true if you consider the struggle fr human rights an attack on Christianity. Otherwise, not. But it does appear that modern concepts of human rights and most Christianity are irreconcilable.

  36. The whole Christmas narrative was a pious, populist innovation of the Franciscans. The early Puritans recognized this and banned the Catholic/Anglican much ado about Christmas. But when an Anglican clergyman added Santa Claus to the Christmas mix, Jesus got all mixed up with and shopping buying things, including, I presume sausages. P.S There is no sound evidence that Jesus was all that poor, or uneducated. It is now known that knowledge of Biblical Hebrew was widespread in Galilee at the time of Jesus. Jesus was of the tribe of David and had elite relatives (an uncle was a Temple priest, an aristocrat) and elite friends and supporters. Jesus knew his Hebrew Scriptures when he showed up at the Temple at 12 years of age. The stable was a high end rental in the inns of Jesus’s time, providing the warmth that a pregnant woman would benefit from. The innkeeper may have been holding it for a big rent but perhaps took compassion on Mary and rented it below what the premium price he could get. And the word “teknon” would be better translated as “builder” rather than “carpenter.” In addition we know know that a whole new luxury Roman city was being built nearby to Nazareth during the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a city where a builder could get some well paying gigs.

  37. Hey, don’t start maligning Satan because the sight of gay people make you faint.

  38. That’s debatable.

    Satan wants to see people in hell, according to you.

    You are clearly ready to damn people to hell.

    Do the math.

  39. I’m glad that my comments cause you to be convicted, Ben. The next step is to turn to Christ and renounce your sin.

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