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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. Reality

    Read the Bible and read it with an open heart and see if God does not change you. I know He will! He can do all things! Even break and soften the hardest hearts

    January 6, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  2. Christian7

    You are not very well versed in the Bible. Taken as a whole the idea that Jesus is God is consistent. You also do not understand what Jesus is saying when he say He can do nothing without the Father. He is saying that his human flesh can't do anything with out God. But that does not mean His spirit is not God. He is referred to throughout old testament and it is consistent with the New Testament. That is why it is called the old testament. Jesus clearly states in many different books through quotes that he is God.

    Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:9

    John 1:1 says that “the Word was God.” John 1:14 says that “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”

    It is not open for debate. You can read or you can not read.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  3. Sam A.

    Of course Jesus was human; he "prayed to God," the Bible says.. so he was human.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Cliff

      He prayd to "His Father" he never prayed to "El"

      January 6, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • Christian7

      God limited himself to a human form for a time. He was also in the spirit as the Father at the same time. God is outside of time so it leads to confusion when He confines Himself to human form because he is also limited by time as if He were two different people. But the Bible says that Jesus is God. He is quotes as saying:" If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."

      January 6, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Sam A.

      Why does God need to limit himself to a human form.. he can always send angels that can take human form. And besides, God is unlimited, so putting himself in a limit defies his very unimitied self and so it is impossible.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Christian7

      Sam A. He needed to limit himself to human form to sacrifice himself for our sins. I can not see any reason at all why God could not limit himself to being human. Why would it be impossible?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Sam A.

      I just told you why above: "God is unlimited, so putting himself in a limit defies his very unimitied self "

      January 6, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  4. Roberto Pace

    You have wisdom of man!

    January 6, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  5. bccnp1

    While I respect all religions and those who follow them I think it does us all good to realize what we have come to believe over these thousands of years is far from the reality of what "was."

    The Sermon on the Mount sure lacks the "superficial" attributes of modern day theatrical performances in multi million dollar buildings with sound systems that would make a rock band blush.

    Watching Christianity evolve in various cultures should open all our eyes to the possibility that culture influences faith more than we want to admit.
    The Puritans of old would look at Christians today as heretics. The Christians of today would look at Puritans as religious extremists.

    In the end it isn't the myths that are created in our minds but how we respond to our fellow man in need. I think that guy with the calloused hands had something pretty profound to say about that 2000 years ago.

    Peace and love to all.
    Bucky's Journey part 1
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR7l_iWvnx4&w=640&h=390]

    Bucky's Journey part 2
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOjDUZD16f8&w=640&h=390]

    Boxing deer and dog
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp9kTQeN4ec&w=640&h=390]

    January 6, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  6. wes

    Massive dysentery....and hence, 'Christian rock'.

    It all comes full circle.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  7. AlFranken

    Hannah and doseof reality both cut and run. Make soundbite remarks and run.

    waste of my time. cowards of a sort.

    cya

    January 6, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  8. nytw

    So he went to promise keeper meetings got drunk and cheated on his wife.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  9. dreamer96

    Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount .."If you do not believe in Me, Believe in what I do"....So does that mean a good person that practices the teaching of Jesus, lives a life that follows the teachings of Jesus.but has his doubts about a God...is held higher then a believer that sins, but confesses, but sins again...Which life is held higher by Jesus?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • AlFranken

      why should it matter?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Riad

      Remember what he also said while on the cross "Hey! I can see my house from here!".

      January 6, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  10. Lou

    The Order of Creation

    Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 Trees came before Adam.

    Genesis 2:4-9 Trees came after Adam.

    Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 Birds were created before Adam.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Birds were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:24-27 Animals were created before Adam.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Animals were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:26-27 Adam and Eve were created at the same time.

    Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 Adam was created first, woman sometime later.

    Other Issues in the Garden

    Genesis 1:31 God was pleased with his creation.
    Genesis 6:5-6 God was not pleased with his creation.
    Which raises the question, how can an omnipotent, omniscient God create something he’s not pleased with?

    Genesis 2:3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
    An omnipotent being required…rest?

    Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
    God placed temptation in the direct path of his two naïve children and allowed them to be tempted by the serpent (Genesis 3: 1-7), resulting in a single mistake that would contaminate hundreds of billions with a sin nature worthy of eternal torture?

    Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, ’You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?"
    A talking snake. Enough said.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Ed F.

      Repeating lies and myths doesn't make them true.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Christian7

      Lou, Why can't God create some trees before Adam and then create others afterwards?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  11. ankenyman

    Atheists have to BELIEVE the most ridiculous logical absurdities to think that creation came about all on its own. They believe that something came out of nothing, that reason came from irrationality, that a complex universe and natural order came out of randomness and chaos, that consciousness came from non-consciousness and that life emerged from non-life. Ironic that they think they are smarter than everyone else.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Fel121

      Oh, you mean like God, that would be something coming out of nothing too correct...

      January 6, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Brooke

      Where did god come from?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • David

      Just because 'you', or any of us for that matter, can't fathom how the Universe came into existence without the need of a god, doesn't mean that it didn't. No matter how much you claim it necessitates a god, you will always have to explain why god didn't need a creator. "Because He was god," doesn't work because the same argument can be applied to the state of the Universe.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • UncleBenny

      So because these ideas are beyond your understanding, you throw an all-powerful supernatural being into the mix, and that's supposed to be an explanation?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • sam stone

      ankenyman: speaking of logical absurdities, how do you make the leap from a creator to a "god"?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  12. Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ben Pendara)

    I am what Americans consider "black", I have been called the N-Word many times.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  13. AlFranken

    We'll think about Hannah,

    If you were Dr. Frankenstein, How would you explain to your creation how he came to be?

    Is that really too hard for you?

    If so, then that explains a lot.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • maxmaxwell

      au contraie , mi thought provoking poster, If you were Dr frankenstien, you already had the remnants of exisitn ghtings to work with, now explain that, or are you talking about the actual soul????geeze evolutionists cannot explain that part now can they???? Life itself cannot be explained no ,matter how you twist it up.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  14. David

    God and I, are not religious.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • AlFranken

      And you're probably right. Christians didn't exist till how many years after the death of Jesus?

      Christianity is probably considered a cult to Christ.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  15. ronvan

    Just another "person" making money off of "HIS" personal opinion!

    January 6, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  16. Maryanne

    Did any of us need to be told this? Really??? You mean people don't know that there was no running water and showers, nail brushes or deodorant two thousand years ago? Wow, what a revelation.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  17. Khalid

    Johnnie,

    Jesus can never be what you described in you 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 9:06 am |
    • Wow

      But the Quran itself is dirty

      January 6, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Reality

      In those verses He is talking about His heart, not necessarily his appearance

      January 6, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Khalid, I have to agree with Reality, those lines appear to reference moral not physical characteristics.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  18. Name*partypeanut

    This side of Jesus endears him to me all the more. He can relate to our very human behavir and emotions...He's my "go to" guy in good and bad periods of my life.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Wow

      ROTFL! Thanks you made me smile with that one

      January 6, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • JJ

      I just go take a ride on my invisible pink Unicorn when I need a pick-me-up.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Fel121

      And if you met him on a bus on your way to work you wouldn't get within 30 feet of him.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  19. hannah

    Too bad they don't practice what they preach.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Reality

      Hannah,

      I am sorry that most Christians do not practice what they preach, but Jesus also said that "not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heave, but those who do the will of my father." Matthew 7:21. See Jesus and there you can find one who practiced what He preached. There are some really followers of Christ out there, you just have to search.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  20. Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ben Pendara)

    I AM BACK!

    January 6, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Wow

      Why did you not create a map so you did not get lost?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ben Pendara)

      I was reborn and forgot who I am for a while.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • callnews

      And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. Luke 21:8

      January 6, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • UncleBenny

      He was behind the sofa the whole time.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:21 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.