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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. coyoteloco

    It is incredible that this literate garbage is given space on CNN. Johnnie has no degree from any college. He was anointed as a "pastor" by Jerry Falwell. "Liberty College" has about the same academic standing as good northern Barber College.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  2. mr Howdy

    LOL.....CNN....on a Sunday....."JESUS WAS A DIRTY DIRTY GOD" ....LOL....I have to give them credit they are getting,,,,,better.......lol..

    January 6, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  3. gop usa

    Funny seeing so many argue against this article,but the same people sold out their faith to support a cult leader who believes his Mormon Magical Underwear has magical powers and god lives on Planet KOLOB..............

    January 6, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  4. Fred G. Sanford

    Regardless of man's affinity with being able to associate physically with those we hold in high esteem, the fact remains that Jesus was/is Holy. He walked this earth and never sinned once. His only purpose was to do the will of His Father. Many love to disregard God the Father in favor of Jesus, who they feel was more of a 'I love everybody, you can do what you want, don't judge anybody' type of person; and that's simply false. Jesus hated hypocrites (98% of church people), however, you must be born again and when you experience that, you'll keep God's commandments from a pure heart. Jesus may have been a construction working regular looking Joe like you and I, but He still required clean living and led by example. That's why his life was the only acceptable sacrifice and His ultimate purpose.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • snowboarder

      fred, there is absolutely no reason to believe any of that to be true. jesus is the stuff of myth and folklore. a tale grown taller with the retelling.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  5. Vidyashanti

    IT IS A SAD ,SAD THING TO READ SUCH AN ARTICLE. CNN SHOULD BE ASHAMED TO LET SUCH DISCUSSION POSTED.
    USE RELIGIOUS BLOGS TO ENLIGHTEN PEOPLE, FILL THEIR HEARTS WITH LOVE AND FORGIVENESS.
    WHAT KIND OF NONSENSE THIS IS. JESUS WAS CLEAN OR DIRTY IS NOT A TOPIC TO DISCUSS.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • snowboarder

      nonsense.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • UncleBenny

      TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK!!!!!

      January 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  6. MatterOfFact

    It's all such a bunch of nonsense any which way.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  7. GGM

    I am with you 100 percent. In fact in sunday school as a child I use to wonder about that. There is the Myth of Christ and then the reality of Christ.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  8. Rebecca Denova

    In, the early Church Fathers DID debate the "seedier," mundane aspects of Jesus's life on earth–they concluded that he did, in fact, eat normal, "human" food, but somehow was able to miraculously "use it up" without having the need to expel it–in other words, Jesus did not have a bile movement . . .

    January 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • snowboarder

      "bowel movement"

      January 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  9. Truth

    Great discussion, minus a few foul mouths.
    2 very simple books for the skeptics: "the Case for Christ" and "the Case for Faith". CfC uses 'non-Christian references to corroborate the miracles Jesus performed.
    CfF gives actual modern accounts of instances, many medical where faith has helped heal.

    God bless you all and good luck,

    January 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • JJ

      Why does Jesus hate amputees? Can you direct me to where magic Jesus restored a missing limb?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  10. *ray

    "I came that you might have life and life more abundantly." And by your wounds I am healed and that I receive you Lord Jesus.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • JJ

      Psalm 137:9 – Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • UncleBenny

      If you're talking to Jesus, why are you posting it on this forum? Is this where he lurks, is it the only way to get in touch with him? Wouldn't you like to make that a private discussion? Please?

      January 6, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  11. Brian Duda

    Pretty sure his Dad said that he was human and we are sadly quite a bit less than perfect...so read on.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  12. Kieth T. Maxwell

    Also not the pearly caucasian guy with a striking resemblance to Barry Gibb, as seen in just about every painting and effigy...

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

      Lol...yes, Barry Gibb! That was the picture of Jesus that hung in our house all during my childhood. Now they're telling me that Jesus was some dirty Jew who actually took a dump like other humans. Next thing they'll be telling me he wasn't really born on Christmas day.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  13. Bruce

    Yet He was the Son of GOD

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

      so the story goes...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • believer6

      Amen, well said!

      January 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  14. Khalid

    Johnnie, I encourage you to research more and especially refer to the Quran for you information on Jesus & Mary.

    Mary & Jesus are respected, loved and have a high status in Islam. Muslims (followers of the Islamic faith) will find this article to be offensive.

    On the contrary to what you state, 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 9:56 am |
    • Alex

      That is probably meant in moral sense. Not that the had aromated bubble bath 3 times a day.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Khalid

      Alex,

      Cleanliness is both physical and in morals. Mary and Jesus were amongst the cleanest that lived on this earth physically and morally.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  15. ShingoEX

    So much for cleanliness being next to godliness.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Just Me

      Holiness should always be within....no matter how clean you are externally, if your heart is dirty and evil, nothing and no one can clean it the way Christ can.

      He was HOLY from within.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  16. Dana

    "Properly read, the bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

    Isaac Asimov

    January 6, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Just Me

      Only when you read it with a carnal mind. Only a fool will convince himself that the bible is fiction.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Christian7

      How come atheist commit suicide more often than theist?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Dana

      Just Me, you are a fool. You cannot honestly take the bible literally. It's a bunch of absurd magical nonsense.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Cesar

      How is it magical nonsense when there is more than 25,000 archeological evidences to prove the things that happened in such book? How is it non sense when it teaches you great moral values? How is it mythical when the people and the places are truth. In fact, many of the stories therein refute a lot of modern theories regarding our history of origins. You can not be bias to a pretty valid point of view that, yes, the bible is not magical. I am not trying to upset you, but i am trying to make you reason. Cheers.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • snowboarder

      cesar, the bible is a collection of occasionally noble myths. your assertions are pure fiction.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Ken

      There's a reason 'normal man' does not understand the bible, per 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."

      And unfortunately until you become willing, you can't even step through the door into understanding, true knowledge & wisdom. It's designed this way for a reason.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  17. gryan

    It is easier to not believe isn't it people?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Sane Person

      It sure is easier to believe in the proven, rational and sensical. Rather than the magical, invisble white man in the clouds who watches over everyone but is scared to death of coming to say hi and stopping innumerable cruelties all over the world.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  18. Arno

    So Christ the redeemer of sinful man who was tempted in every way and yet had no sin, who was both God and man, who is our healer, this Jesus got sick? Seems a rather silly idea to me. Saying that he had to go to the bathroom and had dirt, callouses and so on is really just stating the obvious. But suggesting that Jesus had to make a dash for the nearest privy while in the business of healing every type of sickness and injury going, is just silly. There is every indication from scripture that Jesus was familiar with suffering. But never from being sick himself. Jesus suffered temptation, grief, sorrow, anger and yet remained without sin. Physically Jesus suffered hunger and the torturous death on the cross. If you want to reinvent Jesus to suit your ideas, why talk about him at all. Why don't you write fiction and call it that.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • ShingoEX

      "Why don't you write fiction and call it that."

      This is just too easy to state the obvious.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • causinascene

      That is a good idea..write a book to reinvent Jesus, oh wait they already did that..it's called the Bible, and they did it in the first century and people have been reinventing him ever since to suit their needs and cover up their dirty little "Holy Wars"

      January 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Sane Person

      Yes. Saying he had to run to the potty due to illness is the "silly" part of the myth. I'm amazed you people can remember to breath.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  19. jayb18

    Mohammed was a dirt bag.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  20. heliocracy

    He also had brown skin and black hair, like everyone else born in that region at that time.

    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.