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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
'Jesus Wife' fragment gets more testing, delays article
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.”
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
Ok. if you guys don't believe in a god, fine. But don't direspect what others believe in. Part of the problem that some people have is that they don't respect other religions. An example would be Islam and Christianty. The crusades. You people that dont believe in a god arent helping either. If people would respect each others religion, then the world wouldn't have these problems today.
There probably ought to be a little respect for athiests and agnostics as well. The myth that only religious people can have morals is ludicrous.
Are you saying that God did not CHOSE the time period and the way of life to send Jesus to live in?
Have respect for him. He found nothing wrong with a 'dirtier', 'more Jewish' type of life as a laborer in a dirt town in the first century.
No, no, no. If your religion were benign, I'd agree with you and not be constantly at war with your ideology. The problem with you, your ilk and your book is that within its text is this notion that you're superior. That because you do have faith and do believe that it is your responsibility to convert others. This also entirely sidesteps the notion that having a religion is really a form of mental illness but usually one brought about by systemic child abuse in the homes of these individuals whereby young minds are snuffed out by lies, deceit and with the threat of barbaric punishment. So prevalent is this that not even in later life, where one might be expected to develop a stronger capability for analysis and critical thinking, it continues and worse yet, it's a self-replicating mental illness. Like teaching Schizophrenia.
If you stayed out of the public discourse. If you did not will to impose what you feel is your superior morality in the courts and in legislature then you can most certainly frolic in the tulips of your mind, but until then, you are the enemy.
As a Muslim, we respect and revere Jesus peace be upon him. We believe he is one of Allah's greatest messengers and that he was born miraculously by the command of Allah. Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles as did the other prophets (peace be upon them all) by the permission of Allah. We believe Jesus (peace be upon him) was a Muslim and he has never claimed to be God. We also believe that he was not crucified but rather raised up and saved by Allah and he will return to this earth at the end of time.
Jeez is no more responsible for the way Christians disrespect others as most atheists are for the pomposity of Richard Dawkins and his encouragement of his followers to rely on insults. I'm a Christian and want to see all people of faith as well as atheists and agnostics working together against injustice. Mutual respect starts, for me, when atheists, who often don't demonstrate much rationality themselves, call people like me irrational, and question the existence of Jesus, a contention rejected by the atheist Bart Ehrman, who calls people who hold such beliefs "mythicists."
If only Christians lived a more Christ-like life, they'd get more respect from me.
So you are implying that if Jesus lived today he would be a homeless man living in Las Vegas.... Hmmm interesting.
MORE THEN LIKELY
I have faith in Jesus.....unquenched faith....thanks for the article....Christians you dont have to preach Jesus....just live Him....there are many other teachings but Jesus is the King of Kings...
According to bible this GOD when was born he made his impure for 40 days
Honestly, I don't think most 'christians' want to live him. The word 'christian' today is just a code phrase for an exclusive social club.
I can't help but wonder at all the commenters who don't believe, yet choose to read the "Belief" blog. Interesting!
it's a belief blog. we have beliefs. try to keep up
What is happening here is what should have been happening for the last thousand years. You're butting heads with enlightenment. You're seeing the education of a people; the mind expanding, barrier breaking, can-do-anything act of EDUCATION and I don't necessarily mean classroom. I mean "Googling" evolution. I mean Googling "The council of nicea" and at their fingertips, people are putting together the facts for themselves and discovering wait, evolution isn't from the devil! It's why we have a new flu strain every year! No longer handed textbooks sanitized by the south, they can finally investigate truth. Don't take my word or his word as Gospel - GOOGLE IT, but don't stop there. Truth is in triangulation of fact. 3 or more sources, more or less, to develop a well rounded and understood concept of whatever it is you're learning about.
As for why I'm here. I'll be here at every turn as I have been since around 17 years of age. I'll correct every misrepresentation, every delusion of fact and every departure from reality that any religion cares to profess. I'm a HUGE downer at parties, too. Largely because friends of friends of friends don't let idiocy reign supreme, not even over the punchbowl.
I am the Anti-Church and you and your church will silence no one again whilest I have the ether in my lungs.
@ Moon Witch – You've nailed it. The information highway is accelerating the pace of enlightenment in a very big way and it spells the beginning of the end for religions. None too soon IMO. You are not alone. Not by a long shot.
Warms my heart to read your comments:) It's nice when cnn accidentally helps spread some light and the net loosens. I'll see you at the punch bowl! Peace, Light and Love to us all! Isn't it refreshing to walk in TRUTH fully awake?
Delusional, self-absorbed, bigoted. All the hallmarks of what has emerged as a bunch of classless atheists who believe in nothing beyond themselves. Don't kid yourselves into thinking that you're making some kind of grand impact on society by your use of a fleeting type of social electronic media. Just like your denial of a spiritual soul, you have no idea of the what it means to have effective social discourse. Some day you'll either grow up or grow bitter, or worse yet, do both.
I mean Googling "The council of nicea" and at their fingertips, people are putting together the facts for themselves and discovering wait, evolution isn't from the devil! ------------------–
ACTUALLY, "YES", the devil isn't in infinite presence of God, thus evolving from what??? In WHO'S image and likeness are "WE" evolving from??? WHO's image and likeness are WE evolving into from??? Please tell us educated genius's????
None you sincere educated genius's weren't around with your college education, or your professor's thousands of years ago, BUT you have the audacity to bore us with your fascinations of how things have occurred. Do you really believed you evolved into a HUMAN from being in the presence of another animal?, tree?, Idiot's is only charitable word that comes to mind at the present time. Next you college educated individuals be telling us that, what's happening in the Washington D.C. is a result of the rest of us being unsound, and irrational, thus we are hallucinating that the U.S.A. actually exist's.
Who's is short for "who is," Polycarp.
The plural of "genius" is "geniuses."
Get a clue.
The word you want is "whose."
You seem to be annoyed that people who are educated accept evolution.
I can see why. You've never evolved.
Every once in a while, we need to be reminded of this reality. It brings home the reality of his name, Jesus, which means "God with us". We need to be reminded that he lived and breathed in the trenches with us. Thanks
By the way according to bible this GOD when was born he made his impure for 40 days
Jesus does NOT mean "God with us." Immanuel (from Isaiah, sometimes spelled Emmanuel in English) means "God is with us." Jesus is an English transliteration of Iesous, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yeshua, earlier Yehoshua, or what we call Joshua. So Jesus bore the same name as one of the great Hebrew heroes. The name means "Yahweh saves."
Isaiah 7:14 says Isaiah says "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (KJV) This was taken by the Gospel authors to be a prophecy of the birth of Jesus. However, it was actually a prophecy of things that were to occur in the immediate future during the reign of King Ahaz, several hundred years before Jesus. It had nothing to do with some future Messiah.
Virgin birth is on shaky ground – the original Hebrew used the word almah, which means a young woman of marriageable age. Bethulah explicitly means virgin. The translators who created the Septuagint (Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures) mistranslated this as parthenos (Greek for virgin), and the Gospel writers mistakenly relied on the Greek wording.
And they got something else wrong. They didn't call him Immanuel, did they? They called him Yeshua. Oops.
Silliness. Jesus 'the Christ' was a Jewish tribesman from Galilee, who thought a lot and had ideas worth thinking about. How nice if he actually had power! The GOP would hate him beyond measure, no doubt even more than Obama. After all, he was a socialist Jew, how bad can you get?
Right on, John. Furthermore, the Christians would be the FIRST to kill such a man today. Exxon-Mobile had what, some 68 billion dollars in profits and for that, I congratulate them. In a world of consciousness however, realizing that they're indeed extracting Earthen materials and selling that back to us, perhaps it wouldn't be a horrible idea to help the world's population by giving back a fraction and some.
...what did Jesus say about the eye of a needle thing and the rich man? It was SOMETHING I tell you.
alrighty you are saying he's a normal human man of his times. I can buy that. that he busted out of tomb.. nah.. they probably thought he was dead and wasn't (no CPR in those days hahah!).. he was another of the many before and after shills for an afterlife in 'heaven'. It's so incredibly insane that people still believe this stuff.
In driving to the bank the other day, still displayed was a manger seen as you might expect: Two gaudy plasticine figures dressed in freakishly loud blues and reds, perched over a fading baby mannequin laying atop a few planks of wood and I said exactly the same thing, "Who STILL believes this stuff?" and worse yet, shows a major tenant of their religion in such a clearly "routine" way. Dragged out of the attic, dropped onto the front lawn, throw the baby on the wood, toss a floodlight on it and "All Hail Christianity". I guess it says, "This is what we believe here in this house and we are good and decent people enough to put up this awful display of our faith". Their faith is as rotted, worn and loud as these divine yard ornaments.
Kate- you are seriously the most oafish, offensive, sanctimonious prig that ever walked the earth. And that's only the good things I have to say about you. Go crawl back under your rock you bitter woman.
Hmm..she's not the most "oafish [sp], offensive, sanctimonious prig [sp] that ever walked the earth". I'm also an oafish, offensive, sanctimonious prig.
All of my nope. My Jesus had O.C.D. and used hand sanitizer religiously (pardon the pun).
If I could have a Beer with Jesus , I'd buy a 30 pack of Bud Light :-)
Jebus had severe diarrhea? Holy sh!t.
Really? dysentry amuses you? How old r ya? 5?
Runny Butt? You blasphemous pig -you have no right to speak ill of the Lord it is Blasphemy...laugh now but you will be the one with the runny butt in the end @sshole...whey your @ss is cast into the pit with all the rest of the @ssholes like yourself..
Good article, thanks!
this is bad ass,
contemporary pharisees are a mixture of super right wingers and super left wingers...you two finally have something in common!!!
There is really no difference between extreme Israel is the devil Left Wingism and extreme Israel can do no wrong Right Wingism. They are both bereft of any rationality and soul.
I don't even need to read this. Of course he was dirty. Duh. I guess there are people out there that will be amazed by this info
Who cares about Jesus? That story is old and full of lies. I can tell you this though, I live in the twentieth century and I refuse to live like some dirt bag. I would sooner overthrow my government by force and claim freedom. Only communists live like dirty little animals under their oppressors thumb. They need to arm themselves and throw off the bonds of slavery.
I hope you have some sort of higher power cause let me tell you You aint it!!!!!
C'mmon something about his name stirs something deep inside you, otherwise why would you comment. Keeping your fingers in your ears and screamin does not help 'lil boy.
Then why do you even bother reading the article? Hypocrite much? Go live in your fantasy that there's no God!
You live in the twentieth century?? Please tell us, what is the current year? You see, man has invented this thing, it's called a "calendar". Ask any first-grader to help you read it.
I hate to break it to you, but you're living in the 21st century right now.
Can I join you back in the 20th century? Haha, maybe I am making a big assumption, but I'm assuming you are an atheist. Which is harder to believe, that there was some type of creator or that life was created with no creator? I have my doubts about religion, etc., but can't believe the intricacies of the human body and many other things that exist throughout life just happened by happenstance. There just appears to be too much of a plan in my mind
Kyle, I'm assuming you think that humans were the first life forms on Earth, right? Regardless of whether you believe in a creator of the universe, we were not here from the beginning and humans were made who are we today through evolution. MANY years of research tell us this. Of appearances, body structures, placement of organs, intelligence, etc. have evolved over the years. Religion and science should not be separate but combined together to truly understand life and our world. Why else would we be given the power of intellect to discover these things. Jesus was a teacher, must like Muhammad and Buddha or all the spiritual teachers that became before and after him. His message is what Christianity is about. Their messages is their religions are about. All of us are more alike than we sometimes want to believe, even the religions have many of the same message given in different words and ways. Regardless, there are a lot more preachers than those who truly practice. Don't FOLLOW your faith, whatever if may be. Live it. Simply following others isn't the way to find God.
And by the way, it's the 21st century. It has been since January 1, 2000.
The story may seem old and full of lies to you, but don't stop there. Ask yourself, what is the real story? Arm yourself with the truth and stop being afraid. We're all in this together. What exactly is a dirt bag to you btw? Do not judge lest ye be judged.
To John, The 21st century started Jan. 1, 2001. Calendar starts with year one; year ten was end of first decade, not start of second. Likewise, year 2000 was the last year of 20th, not first year of 21st.
I actually live in the 21st century
John, don't criticize how dirty other people's houses are until you've cleaned your own house. It has been the twenty first century since January 1 2001, not 2000.
Um. Really? Thanks for bringing a little reality to the religious fantasy.
Your version of reality and truth will expire when your mortality does. There is a universal Truth that all mankind will face.
Of course he went to the bathroom, how ridiculous to think otherwise. He had to be human so that he could die. He was fully human and fully God, yet without any sin his entire life which is the reason he could be OUR sacrificial lamb.
fully God who never claimed to be a god and never asked anyone to worship him
A MEN TO THAT
Except that he didn't die. In order to properly die, one needs to stay dead. Not much of a sacrifice if he didn't die, stay dead and go to hell permanently. What's up with the scapegoat non-sense anyway? Someone may be able to accept punishment on your behalf as a sort of whipping boy, but you cannot shift the responsibility away from yourself. There are no gods. There is no supernatural plane of existence and there is no afterlife. Religions are nothing but a big stinking heap of lies.
Jesus' life was a great testament to why God chose the most humble form to reveal himself to mankind. Now this should be a great example of what true service really is espcially to those who profess to be ministers and preachers of the gospel.
God chose not royalty, pomp and splendor to be born into.
Sad to think ANYONE gets their religious education from CNN.
...why is that sad? You took your name from a Christian movie....LOL...Gotcha!
Jean valjean Let's face CNN is way more factual than the bible. Read for yourself how the bible was produced the amount
of material left out showes how bias the produces were.
Why is it that when the name of Jesus appears.....All the naysayers have to chime in and begin the "He's not real...He's not real" chant. IF you don't believe......then just keep moving on...there should be nothing to see here for you.....Something about that name......makes you want to defend against it...But you claim that...."I don't believe in Jesus....so let me bash him!
Just more proof that he's bigger than anything you can dish out.
Because they fear he is real and know what they have to lose. Bashing him makes them feel better. If they simply did not believe they wouldn't even read the article or could care less about it.
Amen to that!
Probably has something to do with the religious right's penchant for invoking his name to legislate hate and bigotry. Just a guess.
One day EVERY knee WILL bow and EVERY tongue WILL confess that Jesus is Lord! Amen!
frankie: i do not fear that he is real. i do fear those who purport to believe in him
I am interested in the story, but I dont necessarily believe. I dont feel the need to bash those that do though, "To each his own."
GET REAL: Jesus was real, he just wasn't a god. God or Gods are always depicted comming down from the heavens
in some type of craft usually with fire and smoke. When we finally got to the heavens no gods were there.They must have
left.Look into the" ancient astronaut theory" believe it or not a hell of alot starts to make alot of sense. Go ahead try
it won't hurt to look at another point of view.
Your comments come as no surprise. Keeping clean in those times was a task in itself but he did wash his hands and feet regularly as was the jewish custom especially when eating or visiting the homes of quests who invited him into their homes. Being dirty was the result of very hard labor in the fields of the times and he wore it withe humility even though a God.
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.