Creeping Jesus

July 19, 2011

I heard this today when a woman at my work was describing an incident where she was getting changed and Kenny (our KP) barged into the changing room and caught her in a state of undress. I do not think that there was anything in Kenny’s head as he entered other than changing and leaving, and perhaps I do him a sid-service with my choice of the word ‘barging’ but it caught me as a strange thing to say, ‘what does Jesus have to do with it?”

It is, it transpires, an interesting, though ultimately archaic and confused, phrase. It is what they call a Hiberno-English phrase, which really means (in this case) a phrase that was used in Scotland to describe something pertaining, loosely, to Ireland. A Creeping Jesus is understood to be someone prone to making unnecessary and overt gestures of religiosity. A Roman Catholic who makes a point of visiting all four points of the cross in a church only for the benefit of the people watching him. It’s specificity has loosened over time and has come to mean purely someone acting in a hypocritical way, related to religion or not.

Another string added to this phrases bow is it’s use by William Blake. In ‘The Everlasting Gospel’:

“If he had been Antichrist, Creeping Jesus,

He’d have done anything to please us”


It is similar in use to that which I outlines originally (in that in talks about someone disparagingly using their religious beliefs) but also has a literal reference; in that he is talking about Jesus specifically (or more correctly his imagined anti-christ.) He says: if he were not Jesus and rather the devil, he would have no need to challenge or human nature and established social order so.


I think that’s what he means anyway, but it seems a self-negating argument: as ‘good’ is subjective and in instructing us to act in a certain way, how do we know that he was not pulling us away from salvation.


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