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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. Ahrentex

    Please just reflect on it...
    Had Jesus not lived his life as a human, don't you think we would have heard about it already? Many of his divine attributes have been detailed – walking on water, healing the blind, turning water to wine, the Resurrection, etc. Had Jesus not been dirty would we not have heard how "he walked around bathed in light with clean, white robes" or "he neither partaketh of food nor any bodily function". Or how about "no smell ever emenated from him", "the need to sleep never plauged him", or "never a bath did he take". Pretty remarkable stuff for that day and age if he did not live as a human – which I feel very comfortable thinking that he did. And so much the better – a humble, divine man who taught us us love while showing us through example how to do it. By being one of us, he was better able to teach us.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  2. nreclleshaj

    This message is for the speaker of the house:
    Dear Mr. Boehner,
    Divine assistance never fails, is never late and is always in time. I know Mr. Boehner is thinking how in this world we are going to do it. You are not alone. God works thru our weakens. Thru our weakens we grow and we become great. But the great should never forget were they come from. As John Kennedy said: "We do great things because are hard not because are easy", and as you said "If anyone comes to washington to gain their own victory than the door is right behind you". At this time we need to be united more than ever before in unity as American Citizens one nation under God. Let's remember that when God rules our nation all doors are open and possibilities are unlimited. Our children's future is number one priority. We have to remember thanksgiving for sometimes in History of this great nation pilgrims gave thanks to the Lord and our time has come that this people unite our hearts once again and on 23rd day of March (correct day of palm sunday- to give in our first-fruit) to this year 2013 celebrate a new feast as a sign to this nation forever to be remembered so we all come together small and great for our children's sake and give away the cost value (first-fruit) of our meals (substance) to our country each year and within 5 years America to be released from the debt forever. In return to every family that makes less than 200,000 thousand to have federal income tax void for five consecutive years. Then restore income tax what was originally been before 1913. Income tax are collected for good purposes and strengthen our country. We need to gather 3.6 trillion dollars each year that would average 1000 a year for each individual in the US for five (5) consecutive years. This is the truth that people need to see. The wisdom that gives the eye to find the solution and go back to our promised land as once it flowed milk and honey.
    Hope Mr. President repents, this way we can forgive him and you Mr. Boehner contain your strength and deliver the message.
    We read on the book of John 12:13 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b].
    So Help us God and bless this Nation.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • dreamer96

      Hmm

      I think The current GOP in Congress are too afraid of their GOP God on Earth...Grover Norquest right now..to do the right thing...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Jeff 30

      I bet you voted for ROmney who is not a Christian......he also wears Mormon Magical Underwear and believes god lives in outer space,on a planet named KOLOB............Funny how christians will turn on their faith and vote for someone who is a cult leader like Romney.....

      January 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • snowboarder

      with this kind of thinking it is no wonder our government is in such a pitiful state.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  3. Dana

    I hate it when jesus rides dinosaurs in my house.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • dreamer96

      Hmm

      If Jesus wants to ride a Dinosaur in your house...Let Him....and stop buying those Bath Salts...They ruin your brain....

      January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  4. Ralph

    Well, if He and I ever meet face to face, I do have a few questions I would like to ask Him.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  5. Ed Schulte

    Yet another attempt to say much by saying nothing important or meaningful whatsoever. ( and makes lots of $$ while doing so)

    January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  6. allenwoll

    .
    Has noi one yet analyzed His credit card records for more information on the details of His life ? ?
    .
    Overcharges and Late-Pays might be interesting !

    January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • snowboarder

      what about that birth certificate?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  7. Jeff 30

    I herd that christianity is no longer the religious platform the gop runs on......Now they all have decided to embrace the cult Mormon religion and everyone gets a free pair of Mormon Magical Underwear!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sounds silly I know.........but this is to show how shallow all these biblethumpers were durning the election and supporting a cultist who is as anti christian as it gets,so many rolled over on their faith,so many voted for the man in the magical underwear...............devout christians.....yeah right lol

    January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  8. splassher6

    CNN's continued war on Christians

    January 6, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • allenwoll

      .
      Ahh, Yes !
      .
      Then there is Christianity's continued war on Non-Believers ! ! . "Incoming ! ! " . Ouch !
      .
      You can't stand the heat, eh ? ? . Consider the next line in THAT one !

      January 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Shayna

      Article was written by VP of LIBERTY UNIVERSITY or can you not read?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  9. more2bits

    Jesus is a myth. Religions are a myth. Gods are a myth. Why does the media spend so much time covering myths?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • OpposingView

      Because people like you are a myth. You don't even exist...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Guest

      If Jesus and His father are a myth, then you are as well, and so am I. And, I KNOW I'm not a myth, because I'm writing this comment. If you believe that Jesus is a myth, you wouldn't be here commenting either!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Mr Smith

      Yep

      January 6, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  10. Tom

    No historical evidence for the existence of this character. Therefore, why don't we argue over Yoda or Captain Kirk's hygiene? Anyone interested in the Easter Bunny's brushing habits? Rumor has it, Atticus Finch didn't floss and Jay Gatsby didn't use deodorant.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Accounts of 22 famous contemporary historians with references to the person of Jesus Christ;
      Cornelius Tacitus (Roman A.D. 60) Thallus (Roman A.D. 52) Mara Bar Seraphian (Hebrew A.D. 73) Lucian of Samosata (Greek A.D. 125) Flavius Josephus (Hebrew A.D. 37) Suetonius (Roman A.D. 120) Plinius Secundus (Roman A.D. 112) Tertullian (Roman A.D. 175) Pontius Pilate (Roman A.D. 33) Justin Martyr (Roman A.D. 150); Jesus is also mentioned in the Jewish Talmud (work finished cir 500 AD) which incorporates the Mishna completed in cir 200 AD.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • snowboarder

      bob, none of those were contemporary or had any first hand knowledge.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Robert Brown

      wesley.nnu.edu/index.php?id=2214

      The Letter Of Pontius Pilate, Which He Wrote To The Roman Emperor, Concerning Our Lord Jesus Christ

      January 6, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  11. AK

    Microcephalic troll.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  12. Portland tony

    If anything, this article just points out that the itinerant folks of that period did not have running hot and cold water or any of the modern bathroom facilities we take for granted today. I personally find this article superfluous and really of no value. Jesus's strength came from within, not from his outward trappings. That's why I find the ostentatious costumes worn by religious leaders today so grossly.bizarre!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Amazing...

      The author's point exactly. We need to accept the fact that, as a human, he obeyed the hygiene and cutural norms of His day.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  13. wes

    The stars in the skyyyyy look down where he lay. The little lord Jesus asleep on the hay......in the cow stall.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • OpposingView

      And where does those same stars find you? Answer: In trespasses and in sin...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  14. dina

    The image of Jesus is from the Rennaisance artists who cleaned up a middle eastern man to look like royalty. I never understand why people continue to argue over a person that probaly never existed in one figure but might be a composite of many prophets in the middle east at that time.The concept that this is a god is so out of touch with reality that there is no discussion.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Accounts of 22 famous contemporary historians with references to the person of Jesus Christ;
      Cornelius Tacitus (Roman A.D. 60) Thallus (Roman A.D. 52) Mara Bar Seraphian (Hebrew A.D. 73) Lucian of Samosata (Greek A.D. 125) Flavius Josephus (Hebrew A.D. 37) Suetonius (Roman A.D. 120) Plinius Secundus (Roman A.D. 112) Tertullian (Roman A.D. 175) Pontius Pilate (Roman A.D. 33) Justin Martyr (Roman A.D. 150); Jesus is also mentioned in the Jewish Talmud (work finished cir 500 AD) which incorporates the Mishna completed in cir 200 AD.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • snowboarder

      bob, you might want to look up the definition of the word contemporary.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  15. ffortnightly

    Wow an article about Jesus on CNN???? Oh, it's to call him dirty. Now it makes sense!
    Grobbbbbbbbbb

    January 6, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • El Flaco

      Everyone was dirty back then, by our standards. There was no soap. No deodorant. People seldom bathed.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • thefaceoftheword

      soon the people who don't believe in god will be silenced atheist the cold cruel people who support the death penalty war lovers the clean and perfect people I like this blog because it puts the humanity into the image of Yeshua after all it takes true grit to battle the clean people right you know them the gentiles the ones that controlled the masses back then too they also controlled the brutes and could pay anyone to go a try to slay Yeshua just like today but the challenges his father faces are greater the gentiles and their men have advanced to more barbaric weapons but the WORD is ready to take on the challenges like the topic a lot grit and some dirt is what it takes to be a leader for the meek and the oppressed you get a thumbs up for have the courage to speak out and too paint a picture of a man who was born into poverty rubbed shoulders with the products that poverty and oppression breed he wasn't dinning in the Hampton or hanging around with Ceo's that's the real Yeshua but expect the father to show this time great discussion perfect topic in a world of perfections. this is just the way I wright I am not perfect.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Amazing...

      No, it was to point out that He had a human body which, surprisingly, functioned like other human bodies. Read El Flaco's reply. I agree with his sentiment on this.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  16. Moses

    Tea-baggin' for Jesus!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  17. Leonid Brezhnev

    There is no god, and Jesus was a mythical figure. Get a life.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • jesus_beats_off

      enough said

      January 6, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Marcus

      Yes, existance created itself.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • OpposingView

      There is no Leonid Brezhnev either. He's just a demonic spirit speaking from the pit of hell to deceive you. Nothing to see here...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Benjamin

      Jesus the man did live and breathe, this we have historical proof of in terms of archaeology. Whether he was holy in any way, that's another story entirely, one that will likely never be fully decided one way or another since the arguments on both sides more or less amount to "you can't give proof he was/wasn't, so he wasn't/was."

      With all of this said, I sympathize with this author about the reactions he got for suggesting simple things like that Jesus, surprise surprise, had to poop sometimes. It's ridiculous that such a statement gets met with such disdain by religious scholars.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  18. wes

    First century Bethlehem was dirty and most worked as laborers with their hands in the elements, as did Jesus. Why are 'Christians' so upset by this?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  19. Lois

    Al, sorry but you are wrong there. Jesus did claim to be God. It is written in the Bible, New Testament, that during his trial, Jesus was asked by the High Priest if he was God. Jesus replied, " I Am" .

    January 6, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • SixDegrees

      That must only be in the WTT* New Testament, because I can't find it in other versions.

      * White Trailer Trash. Sometimes referred to as the SBF (southern baptist fundo) edition.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Henry

      Actually he replied..."You yourself said it", to the High Preist....The question however was if He was claiming to be the Christ, the "Son" of God! Afterward he clearly stated that he would from thereon be sitting at God's Right Hand. Mt 26:59-64

      January 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  20. drub84

    Reblogged this on Then and Now and commented:
    What a great evaluation of our savior.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
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