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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. ATLmatt

    jesus is a socialist... When he selected his disciples, he told them to leave their possessions because the lord would provide... thats redistribution of food, wealth, etc.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  2. N Green

    The truth is usually offensive to those who know nothing....

    January 6, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • snowboarder

      that is why we try to educated the religious.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • ATLmatt

      education eliminates the religious... educated people dont have imaginary friends.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  3. xyz

    Jesus Peace be upon him...never mentioned he was God in the Bible anywhere.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • snowboarder

      jesus never mentioned anything in the bible. the gospels were first written decades or generations after his death, so the veracity of any actual statement of jesus is not only suspect, but almost certainly fiction.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Christian7

      Jesus claimed to be God multiple times. The Bible says it many times.

      This is just one of many of them: 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’?"

      January 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  4. John Gack

    what an idiotic discussion, written by an idiot, for the idiots to consume.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • wes

      Even stranger - the warped ideas that modern day 'christians' have in their mind of Jesus, when in fact he was a brown foreigner that worked as a day laborer.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  5. wes

    Mr. Moore forgets the whole 'born in a manger' part.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • ATLmatt

      i bet that barn smelled liked schit

      January 6, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  6. So What

    OK this is a no brainer. Given the way humans lived back there and their cleanliness habits, yes Jesus stunk like a skunk like everyone else. He got sick and had buggers and pooped and peed. He also had fleas and was bitten by bed bugs. It did not deterred his mission or what he did. We are still talking about it 2000 years later. Had there being soap and water, he would have been cleaner as he would prefer that. Maybe he wasn't any of those things. We have no records of that. Maybe bacteria refused to smell him up and he smelled like roses. What is your point?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • snowboarder

      if the dirt refused to adhere to him and the bacteria refused to make him stink, he would have been quite a spectacle in the first century and we would likely have credible notation of his existence.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  7. brandon F.

    That guy who wrote the book is obviously called a ANTI – CHRIST. Might want the law enforcement to check on JOHNNIE MOORE to make sure he don't have a weapon. beside he sounds like he is " OUT OF HIS MIND"

    January 6, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  8. Xzanthius

    If Jesus ever existed as one man (Jesus was a popular name back then as was being a prophet on the side of the road) then it is likely he was a member of a group of spiritual healers called the Essenes.

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

      Oh almost forgot... the Essenes were amungst the first to be all about hygene. They washes religiously and did not desecrate their body (temple) with bad food, drugs or drink.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • snowboarder

      xzan, they were the first mormons?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  9. FAM

    Finally I agree with the author about Jesus. Jesus came to earth as lowest of low. He live and eat on the street.. Believers honor him by washing his smelly and dirty feet. jesus of Hollywood was too clean and current image of jesus was perfect. That is why there are no picture of Jesus in my house.. Only word of God His word – not his look is more important.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • So What

      You sound like a muslims and their mohamed guy.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  10. Rich

    not like me at all...I'm real.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  11. Donkey & Pen

    Why is this news? He was dirty like everyone else there at the time (and present time).

    January 6, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  12. jonat

    Dirty God...when was the last time CNN focused on something positive on this page? Everything has a negative twist to it, and Christian bashing is the sole purpose. If they want to bash a religion why not practice on the one that causes more death and destruction...Islam?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      oh to be blinded by one's own delusion...what a bubble that must be!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • So What

      Present day christian deserve a few hard smacks on the side of the head. They have taken and twisted Jesus and his mission. They have made up whole religions around him. Some say have turned him into a God. Jesus never said this is a religion make me a God.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • David

      YOU didn't read this, the POINT that he was dirty is NOT NEGATIVE, BUT A PLUS.
      It shows he could relate to one of the poor because he was one of them, apparently that doesn't fit with your hypocritical opinions. Do you think God choice such a backward (in the sense of communication, materialism, and level of technology) for some other reason?
      Second question, do you believe that Jesus was White, like the common image of him? I don't think so, but what does it matter he:
      REALLY PREACHED A REVOLUTIONARY GOSPEL.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • ARob

      I'm sure you simply overlooked the fact that this piece was written by a guest, and not by CNN Surely you're not just hyping up the negative aspect to defame those you consider your "enemies." Besides, the point of the article is generally positive in terms of Christianity, which you would have noticed if you'd bothered to read it before commenting with such contempt.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  13. topconservative

    When I think of jesus the picture of a filthy terrorist comes to mind.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  14. Robert

    Just because normal people dress up and appear abnormally clean in professional photos doesn't make me think this is how they live on a day to day basis. The article is a no brainer. The appearance of an immaculate God or Jesus is pure symbolism, and has nothing to do how they might have been in real life.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  15. Khalid

    Jesus & his Mother Mary (Righteous,Purified and Noble)

    Jesus and his mother were amongst the most righteous, cleanest and noblest who stepped on this earth. I have stated below verses 42, 45 & 46 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

    He (Jesus) will speak to the people in the cradle and in his maturity and he will be among the righteous" 3:46

    January 6, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Adam H

      You're a complete and utter idiot

      January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      All that proves is your lack of ability to look outside the giant book of fairy tales for answers. Quoting Harry Potter or any other fictional character is just as valid.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • So What

      Any thing in the koran is cr ap. Why bother to post it here? Old mohamed stole lots from other religions. Mary probably stunk like all the other women of the times as did old mohamed.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • ARob

      Anything in any religious book is an idealized version of the story and not at all likely to be realistic. If we were to really live as though all the ancient texts were fact, we'd be living on the back of a turtle balanced on four elephants instead of on the planet Earth, which we know to be true because we bothered to check, and didn't just take it as "gospel."

      January 6, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  16. Mennoknight

    Wouldn't it be great if we had an highly educated person go back and interview live eye witnesses and research the life of Jesus and the early church so that we knew what really happened?
    Oh wait we did, a Roman medical doctor named Luke did exactly that and he wrote two books, Luke and Acts.

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

      Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

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

      Oh, and the Jesus I read about in Luke's book looks a lot like the one the author here writes about. Very interesting.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Ed

      Amen Brother!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • ryan

      I love your name MennoKnight. I am also a MennoKnight. I'd love to converse back and forth with ya some how. You've sparked my interest.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • tara10

      There were no "live witnesses" to interview. Everyone who ever might have known Jesus was dead before anyone thought to write anything about him.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • ARob

      ...and I'm sure that in spite of centuries of revisionism, those stories haven't been tainted by the corruption that has plagued it since its creation. Right...?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • MennoKnight

      tara10
      Well if Luke wrote around 68 AD, 35 years after Jesus' death and resurrection, Mary would have been alive, so would Peter, and most of the disciples. And don't forget there were hundreds of people who followed Jesus before his death and resurrection.
      And thanks Ryan! God Bless my fellow Menno! Hoping you are as cheap as I am! :)

      January 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  17. Michael

    Probably quite true

    January 6, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  18. shiststone

    BUT..................ALL the photographs PROVE that he was CLEAN!!!!! I can't BELIEVE it................literally.

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

      Not to mention all the MOVIES!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  19. Nathan

    One man's opinion, dwelling on the negative. The whole lot of priensts of that time were likely earthy as well.
    Bathes weren't commonplace, in fact, they were seldom and ritual.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  20. Bob

    Love to see CNN publish an article saying that Mohammad had the squirts on the side of the road... I've noticed that they're not afraid of offending Christians, but they are terrified of offending a single Muslim...I don't understand that.

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

      How is it offensive to point out the truth?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      not sure how a normal function god gave us all is somehow offensive?
      did Mohammad not have bowl movements?
      you realize that Mohammad doesn't claim to be the son of god, right? he's just a prophet like Moses, a normal human who believed they were speaking for god's will. i do not believe anyone is incredulous when told that Mohammed had normal bodily functions, unlike they are with jesus, a son of god with magic powers.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      lol, bowel, not bowl, typo in my previous post : )

      January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • nachoknights

      gee bob, the old, my dog is bigger then your dog arguement, really now...

      January 6, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Bob

      you're both waaaay off,,,you're missing the point, CNN is afraid of offending Muslims, but not Christians, because Christains will not stand up in a united fashion against percieved slights, however; as we all know, Muslims will kick up a pooh storm if there is even a hint of a mention of Mohammad dropping a steamy. What I'm saying, irrelevant of whether Mohammad is just a prophet or not, CNN would NEVER publish an article like this about him...they're too afraid.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Mihail

      I couldnt agree more with you Bob.
      Almost every other day i read such an article about Jesus. I havent read anything about Mohamed as such. The last time a mere cartoon was drawn, the whole middle east started burning churches, attacking christians and suicide bombers had a feast on christians....not to mention they went out of theyre way and killed the danish cartoonist. Enough said about religion equality in press now days.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Andrew

      You raise a good point. And as an atheist I am with you in deploring the strict censorship built into most flavors of islam. And I don't often compliment christianity, but most flavors of christianity deserve credit for having gone through a reformation, and (mostly) accepted The Enlightenment, and being more tolerant of freedom of speech than many other religions.

      But you suggest you are offended by discussions of how a god, when in human form, might relieve himself. This suggests that you aren't really so much bothered by CNN's capitulation to islamic rules for blasphemy, as you are bothered that most flavors of christianity don't enforce those same blasphemy rules anymore.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Bob

      What is with you lot? I could care less that Jesus took a dump on the side of the road, I'm sure he pinched one off in a lot of (what we might consider) strange places...excuse the pun, but who gives a s...??
      My only point is the obvious difference CNN makes between Muslims...ahh never mind!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • So What

      Old mohamed stunk and had fleas, had rotted teeth and bad breath. His clothes smelled of poop and pee and old sea-men and rotted fish from all those women he bonked.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:53 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.