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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 • My Take

soundoff (7,741 Responses)
  1. Edward

    I enjoyed this piece very much.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  2. Eleyesha

    The author is screwing information to fit an image of Jesus he is trying to portray.

    The devil is trying to undermine that Jesus is unblemished here. Jesus is without sin. He was as pure as pure can get. So one would ask what is the importance of being unblemished?

    In the start of the Bible you have Abraham that eventually comes along. Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son. His son asks him the key words of Father where is the lamb to be sacrificed? Not knowing it was him. Abraham says to his son "God will provide the lamb." God stops Abraham from sacrificing his son here and instead gives him a goat to sacrifice. The lamb is yet to come.

    In the Passover the Israelites are told to eat an UNBLEMISHED lamb and to paint some of its blood on the sides of the door opening. This was to prevent the Angel of Death from killing their firstborn sons. Each year unblemished lambs were used thereafter for Passover.

    When Jesus comes he is known as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is without sin and unblemished.
    When Jesus enters Jerusalem for his sacrifice on the cross. He enters 3 days before Passover. That's the day when unblemished lambs are taken into the city for preparation of the Passover.
    On the night of the Passover "last supper" He takes bread and breaks it then gives thanks and says take this bread and eat of it, for this is my body which will be given up for you. - just as the unblemished lambs were used to save the Israelites in sacrifice.
    When brought before Pontus Pilate, Pontus can find no wrong doing with Jesus... He remains unblemished. The Jews call for his death anyway.

    When Jesus dies on the cross. He says "it is finished" and God's ultimate sacrifice for his children is complete. The Lord God provided the lamb as Abraham had said.

    So why is it necessary that Jeus be unblemished without sin? He intercedes for us as High Priest as the ultimate example of what purity man should strive for. Sin leads to death. Jesus without sin leads to life.

    VIRGIN Marry was unblemished as well. She was without sin. It took a pure and sinless woman for God to be born into the world in her womb.

    People miss the greater picture in order to support an idea they have and miss the truth. Remember that God being pure and sinless leads to his words being holy and true. The word of God is the unblemished truth. Truth can not be prevailed against by evil.

    Hope this helps! :)

    Bless you!

    -Eleyesha

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

      Jesus was born in an animal manger...with everything in there that animals do. He lived in first century Israel and worked as a laborer...Yet you are saying that he was whiter than snow then? Spiritually, yes. Physically, no.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • JJ

      "Hope this helps!". No it doesn't. It just reveals how utterly indoctrinated and deluded you are.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Mose Deph

      Even the most unblemished of lamb must eat and unload...every carpenter worth hiring breaks a sweat... and he felt himself required to partake of mikveh. A little reread of Isaiah 53 might show his truly humanly humanity.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  3. Yikes

    Behold, the advanced level of scholarship coming out of Christian universities. Jesus was unclean. What a revelation.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  4. jonathan

    Great article. The paradoxes and mysteries of God are fascinating. God bless.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      "The paradoxes and mysteries of God are" precisely why it's highly doubtful there's any there, there.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  5. John Walker

    I don't see why this article is news, its kinda common sense if you think about it in the context of those times.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  6. Marsally

    Please – we have better thinkers than this.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  7. Union Joe

    As far as sources- none, As far as evidence- none: as far as familiarity with the culture of the time- none. As far as any study into the the dual natures of Christ, human or God, doesn't seem to be that much either. This is seems to suggest a personal insecurity you have with bodily functions. The Incarnation was the realization of the true nature of creation. The original sin was partly disobedience, but more tragic, that we looked at creation instead of the Creator for our sustenance- to fulfill our destiny of being united to God in His Image. Turning away from our life source- from the Creator to the Created, we introduced death as creation cannot create anything, but maintain what already is. Christ was the outreach of God to save the believers and showed us that now death is only the beginning. But you are trying to bring Christ to your level. Its almost intentionally awful in both content and style that one wonders, is this is a cry for help?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  8. Chris

    Jesus could raise the dead but couldn't cure diarrhea?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Yikes

      Not "couldn't" but didn't want to. He was into some crazy stuff, that one.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Chris

      After suffering through diarrhea, I've never felt so alive!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  9. wes

    Can I write one of these, CNN?

    "Jesus was a Jew"

    January 6, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  10. Stephen

    Nice article. It is a very difficult thing to grasp the humanity and divinity of Christ and I think that you touched on a few good points. I think 'first world' people have a difficult time with Jesus. Doing some of the things Jesus logically did being raised in the Near East under Roman occupation would be attributed to the "homelessness" in our country. Going to the bathroom outside, bathing in a river, eating food cooked over a fire, wearing the same clothes day after day. I feel that the push back you are/will experience comes from our out-of-touch western culture. To see Jesus means to let go of our predefined notions of the world. To follow Jesus means to die to ourselves – let go of our ambitions, traditions, prejudices, gods – and actually try to live the life He has asked of us. Only then we anyonebe able to accept the fact that Jesus was a rather 'dirty' dude by western standards.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  11. Perfect Truth

    The Real Truth of How Jesus Looked...

    In some ways I agree with what the author is trying to say, but as for the other things he said, I won't even deal with it…

    First, I at least want to give the author credit for admitting and believe that Jesus existed. That's much better than reading an article where some idiot can only talk about the fact they don't believe he existed…

    As for Jesus walking around with scruffy dirt on his hands, I don't know about that. Jesus knew he was the Son of God. And he knew he had to be representative of that. And Jesus also knew the minds of people and how the devil would use the least little thing to distract them from hearing the truth. Imagine if Jesus was teaching a message and some follower or bystander looked and noticed all the dirt on his hands or on his clothes. The bystander would suddenly forget about the message being taught and would become solely focused on why didn't Jesus wash his hands. Jesus knew this and was aware of this, and thus had to be conscious of his appearance at all times for the people's sake. I can confirm this is the case because my pastor was that same way. My pastor told us how he had to be meticulous about doing certain things, like making sure he didn't have bad breath or about his appearance, or the devil would use those things and play with those things in the minds of the people. And you can bet Jesus was that same way. So yes, Jesus may indeed may have looked ordinary and like you and me, but I'm sure he never forgot to wash his hands and face etc…

    The final issue I want to address is that the Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee was NOT beautiful or handsome like most images you see depicted of him. The real Jesus didn't look like that and was not a handsome guy in that way. Instead, Jesus looked like a plain and ordinary guy. As proof of this, there is a scripture in the bible which states, "Isaiah 53:2 -…and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.". Meaning, the real Jesus wasn't beautiful in outward appearance. He had no beautiful or handsome features that would make a person desire of him for that. Jesus could have created and fashioned for himself the most beautiful body of all to come in. But he didn't. He didn't because he hated world beauty. He hated world vanity. He hated lust. He hated sin. And he hated what the world thought was beautiful. How many people today are mistreated and discriminated against all because of how they look? Jesus hated that. So the real Jesus fashioned for himself a plain and ordinary body that had no beautiful features in it. In fact, my pastor told us that Jesus did that because he didn't want people following him because of how he looked or for outward appearance sake. Instead, he wanted people following him because of the truth and the Word of God he was teaching and because he was the Son of God, nothing more. So Jesus was not beautiful outwardly. He had a face that had no beautiful features in it. He looked like a plain and ordinary guy. To see beauty in him, you had to look beyond his physical appearance and see the God component. And that is precisely how Jesus wanted it to be. So don't believe the false images you see of him with people depicting Jesus with long flowing hair, a trimmed beard, and with handsome features. The real Jesus didn't look like that. Instead the real Jesus looked far more ordinary and just like you and me. Yet he was the Son of the living God…

    January 6, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  12. kosta

    Atheists certainly have a lot to say about the nothing they believe in.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • KobeAcquital

      So do Christians

      January 6, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Danno

      When our elected leaders went to legislate based on these archaic beliefs devoid of facts, then I'd say it's our civic duty to criticize it. Just the same way the Christians went all over the world destroying local cultures and building churches on other peoples sacred grounds, it's time for people with rational ideas based in provable science to remove the fantasies from our government. Failure to do so will result in continued war, persecution, and the downfall of humanity.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • UncleBenny

      And when people want to inject their religious beliefs into the educational system and call it "science" we have an obligation to fight against it.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Opposing View

      Atheists are idiots. They don't even realize that if they don't believe in God, then their opinion about a God which doesn't exist is worthless...

      January 6, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  13. meh

    Oh well....So much for "Cleanliness is next to Godliness".

    January 6, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Chris

      LOL, Kids everywhere will now be using that as a reason not to take a bath.

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

      That one is now officially shot down.

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

      People everywhere WERE using this a s a reason not to bathe during the dark ages. It was considered immoral by many, andpeople bragged about how many years they'd gone without washing. Not a time I'd want to revisit!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  14. rick

    Of course, he pooped on the ground and wiped his ass with a rock

    January 6, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  15. Mose Deph

    ... and this is news, that he would appear no different from any other slob you happened to pass by chance. Far greater removed from any truth, would be to see any noticeable difference at all. For those that knew him, never suspected anything from the norm. For it was only by his actions: in the substance of talk. healing of the known infirmed, or miracles seen. that anyone would suspect him different than Joe d'Camel buyer. (( As in Isaiah 53:2-3)... He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem).

    January 6, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • NO

      But it sure is getting comments on the dirt.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  16. clifthethird

    This was probably the most pointless article I have ever read. Well maybe not, I read one about bigfoot that was rather pointless...

    January 6, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  17. MrHappy

    More like a dirty lie....never ceases to amaze me. That is what draws me to read this BS..

    January 6, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • wes

      It's all lies....Jesus had blond hair, perfect & clean pale skin, and blue eyes...just like in those pictures.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  18. Kregg

    Once again, media trying hard to demonize Christianity, yet suck on allahs little chubby knob to appease the muzzies jews and atheists because their so tough and awesome, they cry when their feelings get hurt

    LOL

    January 6, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • wes

      I thought Christians were supposed to love their neighbor.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Chris

      Modern Christians only love when it is convenient.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • sam stone

      kregg: still on your knees, begging for forgiveness?

      January 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  19. wes

    It was a dirty time, Johnnie Moore. But if Jesus could perform any number of miracles, why couldn't he at least, being the carpenter that he was, hammer together a bath tub?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • OpposingView

      What makes you think Johnnie More's opinion was right? By your words you speak evil against Jesus and against God all because of someone else's opinion and you have no idea whether their opinion is even true or not. Don't be so gullible. Don't believe everything you hear someone say. If someone errs from the path and goes to hell, if you're following them, they you shall go to hell too...

      January 6, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • wes

      ...As if first century Bethlehem was pristine for a day laborer. I am not mocking Jesus. I find it absurd that people think that any human during that time would be living a pristine life – physically. You really think that his being born in an animal manger was a sterile place?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  20. Origin of Life

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

    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 9:19 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Interesting. Not only that, but organic (prebiotic) compounds have been found in space, churned out by the blast furnaces of stars, which also created all of the heavy elements. Vast amounts of water molecules are also being created. Both of these discoveries bring us closer to an understanding of how life could have come about. Without the intervention of a supernatural being.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Christian7

      Random events don't create information and things tends to move towards a more disorganized state. I snow flake and crystalline structure are different than life type organized structures I am talking about. It is absurd to think that genetic encoding and decoding could be setup by chance. It didn't happen. life was designed.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:30 am |
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