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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. yosef

    Google How The Jews Mock Jesus Christ

    January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • jesus beats off

      I'm no jews; I mock every organized religion.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • OpposingView

      At least the Jews have an excuse (God placed a spiritual blindfold over their eyes so they wouldn't be able to recognize Jesus). What's yours?...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Opposing, you don't speak for God our what He may or may not have done. You live in the false security that you are already Chosen by God for Salvation. You don't even know that.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  2. Preston Lucas

    He was the perfect balance of humanity and God necessary to perform the perfect will that the Father had for us. Plain and simple....

    January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Not really. That may be your belief, but it doesn't make it Truth.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • will

      ...and judging by every painting ever of him,he was scandinavian...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • OpposingView

      FloydZepp… Nor does your unbelief make it untrue...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • snowboarder

      opposing, the absurdity of the claims alone are sufficient to question their validity.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • FloydZepp

      OpposingView, I never stated my beliefs.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • doughnuts

      O.V. is the perfet Christian: Smug, sanctimonius, and delights in the idea of others suffering torment and torture. I'm sure Jesus is quite impressed how you "love" your neighbor.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  3. ewrluv2drum

    I've learned that Belief blog is really about getting people riled up. It doesn't disappoint. I agree with the basic premise of this post: that Jesus live and experienced life in a 100% human way. The details of that aren't that important (diarrhea?). What IS important is what was left out: Jesus live as a human ALL WITHOUT SIN. To leave that out is to leave an impression that is lowers his stature as God. This is true regardless of what you think about God or Jesus as your Lord and Savior. So, if you want to post these provocative statements, at least give a more balanced picture that is in-line with the true Christian message: Jesus came to save the lost by dying on the cross.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • snowboarder

      ewrl, you make that statement as if it were actually true. jesus at the very best was a philosopher who's life has been grossly embellished by his followers and at worst is entirely fiction.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Scott

      Commie News Network has the "Believe" blog to give their fellow Christian (all religion?) haters a place to throw their little temper tantrums.

      Scott

      January 6, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • putty

      Those points you raise are among the many reasons I left Christianity after being indoctrinated into the religion as a child. It always bothered me that Jesus was a man born into the world without sin – so every other innocent baby is (or was) born with sin on their head and has to spend the rest of their lives repenting for it?? Jesus must have acted as a normal man (jealously, lust etc), but he still didn't accrue sin just because he was sent here for a special purpose – to die. This was a purpose that apparently even HE didn't know about – he must have assumed that he was sent here to teach others and be an example, but nope, he was sent to suffer and die as a sacrifice because sacrifice was extremely important to the desert religions (and of course, sacrificing animals and especially people is seen as backwards today). When you've opened your mind beyond the indoctrination, even that bit sounds ridiculous, but here's the kicker – this particular death, hundreds of thousands of years into human civilization, this was the particular bloody sacrifice that removed the sin that got put on innocent babies. What?? It's an entertaining story involving historical figures for sure, but no more and no less interesting and logically frustrating than the mythology of any other people.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Rhill

      I agree. Diarrhea is a stretch and unnecessary to the overall point. But "without sin" is critical to the discussion. No matter how "dirty" he became to identify with man, and man with Him, he never sinned. In fact, he did not even allow Himself to become angry (we understand the over turning of the money changes tables in the temple as "righteousness indignation"). He could not have explained anger as akin to murder and then He, Himself, get angry. He had every right to, but did not. All important in pointing out He who overcame the world.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  4. Jeff 30

    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..............I find it funny how so easily people will throw out their faith or make excuses why they support a man whos religion spits on everything christian basically. How shallow people can be............I find it very amusing to see the same people who supported the Cult Bishop ROmney pretend they are devout christians........Its too late for you folks the Mormon Magical Cult underwear has possesed you!!!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • FloydZepp

      LOL

      January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • dreamer96

      Joseph Smith said the real Garden of Eden was in Missouri....Boy did that place go to heck....

      You know Gandhi took his turn cleaning the toilets....a job only for the Untouchables of his religion....but as Gandhi said about it...The job seems most important at the time you are doing it.....I guess he meant it was a job someone had to do....

      January 6, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Scott

      Considering that We The People had a choice between a racist that attended a ѕhіtсаgо "church" that preached anti-white trash for twenty years and a magical skive wearing believer in the Planet Kolob, the magical skive wearing believer in the Planet Kolob was the lesser of the two evils.

      Scott

      January 6, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Mike

      Huh? How did you get to Romney from this article? You're just like my father-in-law. He can turn any conversation where he wants it, even when it defies logic.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  5. FloydZepp

    Christianity is a invented religion anyway. Even Christians can't get their stories consistent. The most important event of all Christianity – the Ressurection, have 5 separate and conflicting accounts of who actually saw Jesus first after the ressurection. Paul even goes so far as to proclaim that Mary Magdelene was not even present!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Christian7

      Where will you be a trillion years from now?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • FloydZepp

      I don't plan my calendar out that far.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  6. AN

    So was Muhammed, the Prophet, "dirty" too?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • snowboarder

      back then everyone was dirty.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • nonPC

      Of course he was – as a man living in tents in the Arabian desert 1,400 years ago would have been. There were no bathrooms, showers, roll-on deodorants and the like. No laundries, no dry cleaners and no air conditioners. There was neither refrigeration nor an understanding of bacteria. So, yes – his fingernails were dirty and his tummy occasionally ran.

      This is not to say that his Revelations, or his faith were tainted in any way. Mohammed and Jesus were men living in a different world from ours – their 'afterlives' or 'Heavenly Worlds' may have been pristine.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  7. KobeAcquital

    Atheists are very bitter lifeless people. That's why they shoot up schools, suicide bomb, hate gays...oh wait, that's you folks.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Christian7

      When did a Christian shoot up a school?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  8. Mark

    Um, did you people even read the article? Or did you just jump strait to your conclusion and began complaining? The author's point is not debunk Jesus. It serves to put a more human/identifiable face to Christ than the bogus image that people make believe. As a non-believer, the article actually made me consider Christ as someone real rather than a bunch of fantastical nonsense.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  9. Khalid

    Physical & moral cleaniness were attributes of all the pious that came to this earth. We cannot separate the two.

    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 10:30 am |
  10. nonPC

    All true, but much of it applies to Mohammed too. Try pointing this out to fundamentalist Muslims and all hell will be let loose.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  11. Steve

    Gonna run a cover story about how dirty the prophet Muhammad was too? Didn't think so.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  12. ckerst

    First come up with some evidence the he ever existed. Pretending he was real is delusional, you might as well be worshiping Daffy Duck.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • FloydZepp

      The Jewish Historian of the time, Josephus, indicates that Jesus was a real person.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Mylife55

      There is plenty of evidence that he existed. Do some homework and open your eyes, blind man.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • snowboarder

      floyd, josephus was not "of the time" and had no first hand knowledge. also, josephus wrote of hercules, but i don't think anyone thinks that he was a literal character.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • PA86

      If you are so sure He was not real, why are you reading the article?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  13. Guest

    Some of the comments on this site, are just disgusting. I can't believe that people hate God that much! Wow!!!! WHAT did HE ever do to you to deserve to much hatred!?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • JJ

      I know how you feel. The hatred towards leprachuans disgust me as well. I bet you all won't be laughing when I'm running my fingers thourgh the pot of gold coins at the end of the rainbow.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • ckerst

      Which god? I'm willing to bet there are several god's that others on this planet worship that you hate.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Robert martin

      Really? How can one hate something that does not exist?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Sid

      I cant believe this is even on CNN's front page. Absolutely disgusting article and I am not even Christian! I could not finish reading it. Unbelievable.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Krivka

      "He" didn't do anything to deserve anything. He is a made up myth.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • KobeAcquital

      It is what he doesn't do.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  14. Manuel Diaz

    Once I read CNN means Castro News Network and today after reading this article I could not agree more.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Water into beer

      Hey watch it buddy! If Fidel could have mastered his curve, he'd a pitched in the majors!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  15. guruji

    Johnnie Johnnie, Yes papa
    Telling lies, Yes papa.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  16. gary

    Too few today know how much the bible and the Jesus / god myth has changed over 2 millennia. The Jesus myth has been manufactured and morphed for 2000 yrs, often by popes to increase their power and income. This myth ws formed in dark times by extremists in extremist lands that are still extremist. Sad that today in the 21st century "educated" people still believe this made up mythical nonsense.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • http://bit.ly/VaticanMafia

      Yup, the Vatican is run by the Mafia! http://bit.ly/VaticanMafia

      January 6, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Scott

      Too bad that gary can't understand that Biblical scholars look for the OLDEST manuscripts of the Bible when translating it to avoid the morphing of the texts. Yes, a number of popes and other filth have tried to change the content, but the Biblical scholars have remained true to the earliest manuscripts.

      I understand that you are a Christian (all religion?) hater, but telling lies does not further your cause.

      Scott

      January 6, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Donna

      gary, what income? Most churches in the us are renting to daycares and mosques, selling to co-ops and being converted into night clubs and apartments. The only people making money are retailers at Christmas.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Mylife55

      Another sad little atheist.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  17. jesus_beats_off

    So does Johnnie Moore!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  18. Mark H

    The author is from Liberty University; hardly the bastion of theological wisdom.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • jesus_beats_off

      is there such thing as theological wisdom?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  19. Donna

    Let's also talk about Buddha and Mohhamad having the runs and see what happens!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • guruji

      Budha was prince.And don't say anything about Mohhamad, you are in fact better off limiting yourself to Jesus and Budha.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  20. gary

    the Jesus myth has been manufactured and morphed for 2000 yrs, often by popes to increase their power and income. Too few today know how much the bible and the Jesus / god myth has changed over 2 millennia. This myth ws formed in dark times by extremists in extremist lands that are still extremist. Sad that today in the 21st century "educated" people still believe this made up mythical nonsense.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • rightforlife

      And your myth has been around just as long.

      God understands why you don't want to believe, you're spiritual deaf, dumb and blind, an enemy of the living God. Be of good cheer, I was like that at one time too, but Jesus changes lives, for the better!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Andacar

      Hey gary, if you insist of posting your canned atheist harangue here at least only do it once, and remember there is such a thing as a Shift key. That's what "educated" people do.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Mylife55

      You keep telling yourself that.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:37 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.