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My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God
January 5th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God

Editor’s note: Johnnie Moore is the author of Dirty God (#DirtyGod). He is a professor of religion and vice president at Liberty University. Keep track of him @johnnieM .

By Johnnie Moore, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Jesus was a lot more like you than you think, and a lot less clean cut than this iconic image of him that floats around culture.

You know the image. It’s the one where Jesus is walking like he’s floating in robes of pristine white followed by birds singing some holy little ditty. He’s polished, manicured, and clearly – God.

But despite the Christian belief that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, Jesus was a rather dirty God.

He was the “earthly” son of a carpenter, and life in the first-century was both more lurid and unfinished than our collective religious memory seems to recall.

To that end, I suggested recently to several astounded colleagues of mine that Jesus actually had to go to the bathroom, perhaps even on the side of the road between Capernaum and Jerusalem.

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What tipped them over the edge was when I insinuated that Jesus, like almost every other human being living in the rural world in that time, might have even had dysentery on an occasion or two.

Someone said, “You mean that Jesus might have had severe diarrhea?”

“Yep,” I replied, “That’s exactly what I mean.”

It seems like an obvious statement if you believe that Jesus was “fully God” and “fully man” (as most evangelicals believe and call the Incarnation), but to some of us it seems in the least, inappropriate, and at the most, sacrilege, to imagine Jesus in this way. We might believe that God was also man, but we picture him with an ever-present halo over his head.

But, actually, the Jesus of the Bible was more human than most people are conditioned to think.

I call this the dirty side of Jesus. He was grittier, and a lot more like us than maybe we believe, and that’s one of the reasons why so many thousands of people followed him so quickly.

They could relate to him.

He was the teacher from a small town who knew and understood the economic insecurity that was common in the first century. Times must have been rather tough for Jesus at points in his life, for he even spoke of being homeless, having to sleep on the ground with no roof over his head.

He also knew what it was like to have his message rejected and how it felt to be misunderstood. Jesus was regarded with such little significance in his hometown that one of his critics once remarked sardonically, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Jesus eventually had to move to different city (Capernaum) because his teachings so infuriated the people living in his hometown that they drove him out of Nazareth and even tried to throw him off a cliff.

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The real Jesus had dirt underneath his fingernails and calluses on his hands. He probably smelled badly from sweating profusely in the Judean sun on his long hikes to Jerusalem, and Jesus was, without a doubt, rumored to be a hypocrite or absolutely mad for all the time he spent with prostitutes and those afflicted with leprosy.

Not exactly have a clean-cut image.

He had a rather shady reputation.

Some people thought he was a revolutionary. The religious leaders called him a heretic, and others even accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton - in no small part because of the vagabond group of disciples he had with him. No serious religious leader of his day would have ever recruited such people.

For his core 12 disciples, Jesus included a tough-as-nails, bombastic fisherman (Peter), a chief tax collector named Matthew (the most hated popular figure of the time), an eventual traitor who was stealing money out of the offering bucket (Judas), a prolific doubter (Thomas), two jocks nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder” (James and John) and Simon the Zealot, a member of a radical political party which believed in using violence to kick out the Romans.

Jesus was sarcastic, too.

He often snapped back at the Pharisees with a tone fit for late-night television, and in a terribly embarrassing moment for all those around him, Jesus even called these respected religious teachers “snakes” that were probably sons of “Satan.”

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That’s not exactly the behavior of a sweet, self-help teacher with a halo over his head.

It’s the behavior of a frustrated man who might also be divine, but sure knows how it feels for annoying people to get under his skin.

Christians believe that Jesus chose to be born fully human, too, but why?

Lots of theologians have laid out opinions over the centuries, and in their opining they have tried once again to hijack Jesus’ humanity by defining it in philosophical terms. I believe it’s simpler than the philosophy and church councils and centuries of argument.

The brilliance of Christianity is the image of a God, named Jesus, arrived with dirty hands.

Jesus came in a time period when Greco-Roman gods were housed in gigantic temples and portrayed with superhuman powers and with superhuman physiques. Gods were believed to be far away from people on their mountains or hemmed up in their sanctuaries.

Jesus arrived in defiance of this prevailing imagery.

Jesus didn’t come flinging lightning bolts from a mountaintop, or playing politics in Rome. He came to live in a typical Middle Eastern village called Nazareth that was home to a couple hundred typical people. He didn’t decide to brandish his power, but to spend most of his time with the powerless and disenfranchised. And when he started a religious movement that reshaped history, he did it in the most profound and anticlimatic way:

He let himself be killed, and then he busted open a tomb.

In Jesus we meet a Savior who understood the desire to sleep just a few more hours, and who had to control his temper sometimes. In Jesus we find a God we can relate to because he chose to relate to us.

He was the God who became dirty so that the world’s souls might be made clean.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Jesus

soundoff (7,741 Responses)
  1. Carlos

    This is awesome, please people keep commenting on this. Reading it definably makes my day go faster, thank you SO MUCH................!!!! HAHAHAHA :)

    January 6, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  2. dreamer96

    Roman Emperor Constantine was the first Roman ruler to accept Christianity as a real Religion in the Roman empire...and became a Christian himself....after he had killed many of his ownb relatives....So what place does he hold in Jesus's Heaven...Was He forgiven for all those he had put to death...does he hold a honored place in Jesus's Heaven..just because he became a Christian...after he had ordered the death of some many others..even other Christians?

    Just cracks me up all the Church goers that are squeaky clean, in their Sunday Best cloths, wearing Gold, and Silver Jewelry, driving a big new expensive car...think they are going to Jesus's Heaven....Jesus's Heaven will be filled with the dirty poor, the hard working average man...covered with dirt, oil, sweat..All those with a good heart...not a fat wallet...

    January 6, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  3. funny

    cute that so many athiests take timeto read and even comment on this.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • JJ

      Isn't chruch about to start? You need to run along or I'm calling Pastor Bob. I think you'll find there that everyone thinks just as you do and drinks the same kool-aide.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • adose of reality

      funny that so many theists don't take time to read......facts are so hard to understand compared to simple 'beliefs'.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • What!?

      Yes, we have fun with stories about Jesus. It's kind of like reading the comics in the newspaper. A lot of laughs.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Ed F.

      Funny that you believe in invisible men in the sky.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  4. adose of reality

    It is very easy to show how the Judeo Christian god is an invention of man, though.
    1. Only in late Bronze Age Palestine had anybody heard of this god. The millions of people living elsewhere in the World had never heard of it. All of the people living in China, Eaurope, Africa, India, the Australian Aboriginals had never heard of it until humans from Palestine gradually moved out and "spread the word".
    Does it really make sense that a being would create the an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.
    While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.
    Second, does it not appear to you a little silly that, of all the countless millions of people, this god would make the Jews its "chosen race" and obsess with giving them a host of rules, most relevant only to farmingcommunities. Hmmm, did god creat the Jewish farmers or did the Jewish farmers create God....
    Next, the stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Ho.rus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).
    Next, the Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.
    By the way, we have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.
    When backed into a corner, Judeo-Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.
    Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?
    No, Kalessein, faith is not even belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more substantial that the "hope for a good future" and no more universal universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.
    We are a frightened little species and we need to avoid the inevitablility of death. We create our gods to do just that and to explain those parts of nature we cannot explain or control. Fortunately, the penetrating light of science and knowledge has flushed this "god of the gaps" out of his hiding place. He is now forced to inhabit those few remaining dark patches science has not yet fully exposed. The origins of life is one, the uncritical mind of the believer is another.
    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • AlFranken

      so there ya go, just keep babbling so that people just keep walking while throwing some change at you.

      lol

      go away.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • adose of reality

      Yes, AL, you are definately getting scared. Simple wishing facts away won't work. Such a simple little person.....please try to grow up a little...santa and the easter bunny are not real. shocking eh?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • The serpent

      Great post!
      Of course the "believers" won't adress the points you raised, but will attack you. Keep shinning the light of truth and reality!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • snowboarder

      adose, that was an enjoyable read.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • bigdaddy4

      hey dose.how are you?i naturally think to say this to anyone who thinks that there is so little to even live for.that this is all there is,and after you die i guess you just blackout,and dont exist anymore.thats depressing.how can you look around this world and think that we are all here because of some incredible accident that happened billions of years ago?thats like thinking that if you opened a closet and tossed a grenade in there and looked inside everything would be in the perfect spot.i pray for you.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • snowboarder

      daddy, eternal life is the creation of the imaginations of primitive men, agraid of death and the unkown.

      life is what you make of it. use it wisely.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  5. Frank Cardenas

    This really is just so much silliness. Jesus said: "I, of mine own self can do nothing" "Don't call me good, only the Father is good" "I am the light of the world" and "You are the light of the world" so why do these fundamentalists believe that Jesus is God? Because they follow the "words" of Paul rather than the teachings of Jesus!

    January 6, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  6. hannah

    Who cares?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • John A

      Many.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • John A

      Nobody is going to be writing about you or I two thousand years from now.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  7. Me

    If you had guts, are a true religious researcher, and probably have researched other rereligious figures, write about them in such light too. I suggest you write about prophet Mohammed next.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • Saraswati

      This guy is a professor at a fundamentalist Christian university...his interests a probably more toward Christianity than Islam. This is like insisting that a Chinese history scholar write on the history of Indonesia. He may know the topic, but likely does not.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  8. AlFranken

    adose of reality:

    While you are cutting and pasting your excuses, think about how you would explain your instructions to your creations from the time they evolved enough to understand spoken language.

    Go ahead - your pile of **it of cloned, experimentation of petri dish of a mess is looking up at you with their batting eyes wanting to know why their eye brows are touching.

    Are you going to use scientific notation or make use lullaby?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • hannah

      Whatever you said is absolutely unintelligible!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • adose of reality

      getting a little scared there AL....all those facts getting in your way? Too much logic and rational thought for you to handle? Yes, you should go back to lullaby land where santa and the tooth fairy will protect you.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • What!?

      Poor AL doesn't know he's being ignored. He's still shadowboxing

      January 6, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • The serpent

      I guess this is your reply when you can't address the facts. LOL!! How typical of the uneducated.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  9. William Palmer

    Jesus was a man, like other men. He simply had a clearer understanding of the non-reality of the material world, of the true nature of man and the universe as spiritual, the creation of God. Jesus was NOT God, he demonstrated, in a systematic and scientific manner, the reality of God. And if in the course of doing so, he forgot to get his nails manicured, that did not subtract in any way from his message and the truth of Being.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  10. Jim H

    Brilliant. A look at Christ from the perspective of the one quality (I believe) is necessary to follow God's way: humility, defined as a realistic understanding of who I am, who I'm not, with an aspiration to become what I can be, one course-correction at a time.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  11. Dave Shelter

    I hope this Author is in hiding because the Christians will be out to do harm to him. I think I see some Christians burning an embassy now over this story. Oh there is Hillary Clinton calling this article "disgusting".............. riots in the street tonight, many are going to be dead over it...... Sorry I was thinking of Islam.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  12. snowboarder

    jesus is the stuff of myth and legend. a tale grown taller with the retelling.

    the number of people who believe it to be true is simply an indication of the effectiveness of religious indoctrination.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  13. Daws

    Article could have stood to ave some citations or quotations even, lacking such it seemed pretty devoid of content...not much to say about it when it doesn't say much itself.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  14. Origin of Life

    Origin of Life: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

    Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway - which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells - has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  15. What!?

    Is this what passes for scholarly achievement with Christian Universities? This dude is a vice president and professor with this type of research and writing? Whoa! It sure ain't Harvard, is it.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Rhett

      Harvard, too, was founded as a Christian university. It still has a divinity school. So I'm not sure what point you are trying to make.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:20 am |
  16. Khalid

    Johnnie,

    Jesus can never be what you described in your article, He and his mother were amongst the cleanest and noblest who stepped on this earth. I have stated below verses 42 & 45 from chapter 3 (Al-Imran) from the Quran for your reference.

    "There came the time when angels said; "O Mary!" Surely, God has exalted you, purified you, and preferred you for His service over all the women of the worlds. (3:42)

    "...He (Jesus) will be noble in this world and the Hereafter; and will be from those who are very close to God" 3:45

    January 6, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Daws

      Pretending that even says much....gotta say wow the Quran? That's only what, 500, 600 years after the fact? Yeah that's sure to be accurate. Btw I'm going to go ahead and recant the life of Christopher Columbus now....

      January 6, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  17. Sam Houston

    This gentleman may be a professor of religion and sincere in his belief, however, to call the doctrine that describes Jesus as 'fully God and fully man' Christian is not in harmony with what the Bible itself teaches. Matthew 16:13-17, Luke 1:32-35. Those are just two small passages which clearly show that Jesus NEVER claimed to be God. Throughout the Holy Scriptures spirit creatures (both good and bad) and humans (those who followed Jesus as well as his enemies) recognized that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Also, if Jesus was the perfect Son of God there would be no possibility of him suffering diarrhea or any other sicknesses brought on by sin and imperfection. The Bible makes it quite clear.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • sam stone

      diarrhea is brought about by sin?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • ssmote

      No it doesn't make it clear at all. You're interpreting day-to-day dirt of living with some higher concept. Poor show on your part.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Robert Green

      Sam, if you believe that Jesus did not claim to be God, then what is your take on John 10:30? By their reaction in John 10:33 the Jews certainly thought He was claiming to be God.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:20 am |
  18. llatpoh

    I can't wait to see the headline "The Prophet Mo was a dirty dirty God"... oh yeah, you won't see that on CNN or the rest of the sharia compliant MSM... inflammatory and disrespectful headlines are only appropriate for all OTHER religions

    January 6, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • ssmote

      What's disrespectful about talking about dirt? I suspect you see conspiracy in everything.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  19. merlin215

    Oh Brother , another idiot trying to show intelligence ....

    January 6, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  20. Bavinton Morales

    Ok Mr Big Mouth "Johnnie Moore" I read your Biography since I didn’t really know much about you. You seem to be a very smart and successful young man. Christians are taught patience, tolerance and love and.. why not "Guilt" Lots of it :). I'm sure you know this very well since you are an author, commentator, advisor, professor, faith leader, university public relations executive, and humanitarian whose work has garnered the attention of leaders around the world "According to you site". You are very well aware that “Our Dirty God” and our church promotes LOTS of tolerance and that’s why you can still go about your business and take advantage of the publicity this piece will bring you despite of how offended a Christians may be. “Hey..I didn’t know who you were and Now I know”.. Here is my challenge—I respect your opinion but how about writing a strong and disrespectful piece about Muhammad and put it in CNN??... Let's see how big your Cojones really are….

    January 6, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Ed F.

      CNN will never do a slam piece on Islam because 1: the liberal pseudo intelligentsia wants to recruit Muslims as a voting block and 2: As good liberals we're supposed to embrace people who are trying to kill us as long as they hate Amerika just as much as Michael Moore hates Amerika.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • MrWombat

      LOL

      January 6, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Or...or the target audience of blogs like this one is aimed chiefly at a North America. Where Christianity is the reigning mass delusion and muslims or jews and the like constitute a tiny minority. A story bashing those loonies would be largely ignored by most of you.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • M. Edward

      Well written comment however dogma aside, the author makes some very good points although Jesus, according to the Bible was born to a Jewish mother and father, how difficult is it to believe that he lived in a structure with a dirt floor and that accepted hygiene was not manicured nails. Would he have lived into his thirties, under Roman Rule had he wandered all clean and dressed in "white robes?" As for your comment regarding the life of Mohammad, the Muslims are extrema zealots and do not abide by rational discussion. A sane persons does not swim in shark infested waters with chum.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
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