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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.

'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.”

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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. Colin

    There are two seemingly insurmountable problems in knowing anything accurate about Jesus, absent new historical evidence coming to light. First, note that only the 4 gospels tell us anything about Christ’s life. The Old Testament obviously doesn’t mention him and Epistles, Acts and Revelations mention virtually nothing about his life. Of the 27 books of the New Testament, we are reliant totally on the 4 gospels to tell us anything of JC’s life.

    No other historical docu.ments outside the Bible and written within 100 years of his death (such as the so called “non-canonical gospels, Roman records, historians etc.) tell us anything of worth about Jesus either. We are virtually 100% dependent on the 4 gospels. Hence, the problem.

    (i) The oldest complete manuscript we have of the New Testament is the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates from about 350 AD. About 320 year after Christ died. To put that in perspective, 320 years ago was 1692. About a century before the USA was a country. From that point back, we only have partial manuscripts, the most complete of which is Vaticanus, dating from around 320 AD. Before that, the fragments get worse, until the oldest of all, P52, which was discovered in an Egyptian trash heap in, is nothing more than a credit card sized piece of papyrus with a small piece of John Chapter 18 on it.

    We do not know how accurately they reflect the original 4 gospels, which have been lost, probably never to be found. We do know that much of the 4 gospels (such as the end of Mark and the myth of Jesus and the adulteress in John were later forgeries added centuries after the originals were written)

    (ii) The original 4 gospels themselves were written between 40-60 years after Jesus died by committed followers of his cult. They were not witnesses and their accounts are very inconsistent. They very likely tell a very sanitized, exaggerated and idealized version of Jesus’ life.

    Unfortunately, there is no way around these problems, given our current knowledge.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Colin,
      “The Old Testament obviously doesn’t mention him….”

      Would you like me to post a few references to Jesus from the OT?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Colin

      Sure.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Colin

      Still waiting robert.......

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  2. Rick

    No matter how hard you try to imagine Jesus.......he remains imaginary.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • OpposingView

      Only in your own mind. In our mind, we don't have to imagine Jesus because we know he's real...

      January 6, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Anon

      ^ Then present concrete evidence. Until then the burden of proof lies upon the religious.
      No evidence, no reason to listed to delusional lemmings.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Roman Catholic

      It amazes how many people just like to bash on boards that Jesus didnt exist. If you did any research at all and did not just talk out the other end you would learn that Jesus did exist, and he was put to death on a cross as described in the bible. There are Roman records of this. Now if you believe he is the Son of God and rose from the dead is a matter of faith, but there is proof he existed.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Anon

      *No evidence, no reason to listen to delusional lemmings.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  3. blessedgeek

    Jesus is not god and it is not a surprise that normal respectable people at that time have dirty finger nails. Don't force this "Jesus is god" thing on us.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      "Jesus is god" thing is for them and let them enjoy their belief, you being behind computer, expressing your views on CNN blog, tells me, you're too stupid to force anything on you, goon

      January 6, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • OpposingView

      The scriptures state, Jesus Christ is the manifestation of the God in the spirit. So if you don't believe that then you're antichrist...

      January 6, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      now wait a minute OpposingView, you are labeling someone "Antichrist" because he or she does not believe in your God, that makes you goon too, exactly the blessedgeek is talking about

      January 6, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • JWT

      There is no need to believe what you believe.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • snowboarder

      opposing, the scriptures are at best a gross embellishment of a decent philosopher and at worst a complete fabrication.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Anon

      All religious believers are screwed up in the head.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  4. Dave R.

    I don't believe people carry the image of Jesus in flowing white robs followed birds. He was here in the form man. I really think you inflated your description of the reaction your Christian friends gave. "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.”

    Obviously this is an inflated statement you've made to dramatize the story sir.

    Also, why make it a point to tell people about these facts?? So what, Jesus was a human.

    I really think there is something to be said about the fact you decided to chose this topic.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • End Religion

      We're expected to believe jesus made blind men see but couldn't cure the squirts. It's just more fantasy piled on top of absurdity.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Inflated statements to dramatize stories is what this religion is built on.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  5. Mohammad A Dar

    why "Christians" on this page are so scared to talk freely about Jesus? How do they differ from Taliban, who are scared too to see the image of prophet Mohammad?

    January 6, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • End Religion

      They don't differ. If left unchecked, America would be under Christian Sharia law.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Arshad Haroon

      To you guys, Prophets are just normal people that you criticize but to us Prophets were the choosen ones and had very close relation to God, they should not be criticized they way normal people are citicized, they were free of sins where as in Bible the prophets have been blamed so much for bad things that one can not imagine if Bible is talking about a prophet or a normal sinful person.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      @ER....

      yes you're correct my friend, the wind of religious conservatism or fanaticism is very dangerous thing to any country, it would cause nothing but more wars and more genocides

      January 6, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • End Religion

      Arshad Haroon, thank you however while I don't know much about Islam I do have a general understanding that we are not supposed to point out that its prophets are nothing more than garden variety charlatans. Fortunately, I have not been trained to experience your Pavlovian fear of something purportedly based on love.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  6. Londell

    This article is great because this is completely factual in my opinion. I try to get people to realize these things about Jesus so they won't beat themselves down about making mistakes in life. Jesus didn't sin but He was just like you and me. It's all in the bible and I'm so blessed to have read this article because I have a better understanding of how I imagine Him. Thanks Johnnie Moore.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • End Religion

      That's the thing about facts, they're not subject to anyone's opinion. Your jesus never existed. The bible is the opposite of fact.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  7. RickF

    Not surprised. And am surprised people are creating a stir about this. Jesus WAS a MAN and lived as a MAN for us. HE suffered the same ailments, went through the same thoughts, good an bad, was given trials everyday as a human being. Like the writer wrote, that is why he was followed by the common man, we related and lived like him and because of this, we followed.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  8. Rosiepose

    And you are a dirty, ignorant person who needs to get a life, if this is what you think about. Who cares, you silly person!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  9. lenny tea

    This is a general comment regarding this blog, and has nothing to do with the article at hand. This so called religious blog has no business being on a news site. Further more more it has nothing to do with religion, and is strictly used to promote twisted ass backwards beliefs of the radical right Christianity, spreading hate against those that are different. If this was a real religious blog, it would have stories that are about other religions as well.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Peg

      lenny, maybe you should learn to read.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • SixDegrees

      So you've been here...exactly once. And are completely unaware of the articles frequently published here on a variety of religions.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Michael

      Read the blog more than once because you're embarrassing yourself. And of course just like a newspaper has different articles and sections, so does a website.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Saraswati

      This is a blog on a US new site. It has some stories, even online now, on religions outside the US, but just as the politics and science sections focus on the US, so does the religion section. Most people in the US are Christians. I am not, but as the largest religion in the US it seems obvious it would be of the greatest interest on a US website. If you visit other countries you'll find that their national new also covers their own country predominantly. If it didn't, do you think Irish news would ever be known in a country as small as Ireland?

      As for covering religion in the news, of course its news, do you really think religion doesn't influence people's thoughts and action? Do you think it is not of interest to both its adherents and to those who might be threatened by its positions and actions?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Seyedibar

      it's only about 3 religions. If their holy book doesn't feature Abraham, CNN won't touch it.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  10. a myth

    Jesus never existed at all. Google that phrase, and you will find multiple articles that will enlighten you. Grow up, kiddies, and think for yourselves! I am embarrassed for so many of my fellow human beings that here in 2013, they still need to believe in myths!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • 1c1lent

      I'm going to pray for you God bless you in 2013 try to say a prayer an let God reveal himself to you an he will

      January 6, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • OpposingView

      That's not saying anything. Now Google the phrase "Jesus existed" and you'll come up with countless other articles which call you a liar...

      January 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • multiplemadness

      Ooh, the gospel according to google! Talk about your spiritual enlightenment!

      January 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Seyedibar

      The character in the story obviously never existed, but once you start paring away all the legends that were borrowed from other cultures' folktales, there's enough to suggest that it could be based on one of the messianic cults of the day. It's hard to say considering at least half the tale is made up.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  11. Edward WIlkins

    Jesus wasn't God. I am not religious and even I know that. Is this author a total moron just trying to be provocative?

    Why even print this bs.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Seyedibar

      He's a demigod: half god/half human with special magic powers like most of the Mediterranean folk heroes of that time.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • OpposingView

      The scriptures state, Jesus Christ was the manifestation of the eternal God in the flesh. If you don't believe that then you're antichrist...

      January 6, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Rosiepose

      You are exactly right. He is the Son of God, our brother. People get that so mixed up, because He said, "The Father and I are One".......He did not mean that literallly.......... people are always saying he or she and I are one, meaning liked-minded. People just do not think for themselves!!

      January 6, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • a different Dan

      "IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD ;THE WORD WAS WITH GOD AND THE WORD WAS GOD. THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US'.
      JESUS WAS ALL THE THINGS GOD THE FATHER WOULD BE IF HE WERE A MAN.
      AS I SEE IT; THE MAN JESUS WAS GOD BECAUSE HE WANTED TO BE GOD AND WAS ABLE TO BE GOD. "HE BECAME WORTHY BY WHAT HE SUFFERED" THE MAN JESUS COULD HAVE FAILED TO BE GOD BUT DID NOT. THANK GOD!

      January 6, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  12. me

    Well, I can go to my grave peacefully now that somebody finally told me that jesus pooped. I am bathed in relief.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Er, that's not relief. Do you need a towel?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  13. Jill

    Robert Brown, gobble the fertile gravel. There is no caveat to the Klein bottle, and there will be no gold watch for the unspoken zero.

    Focus your nose on the test tube. Stay succulently upon your velodrome and fear not the coming of the essential kangaroo. Strawberries are your incidental chemistry. Present the fulcrum in advance of the gypsum cookie, for as the tree is combed, so goes the predicate. Expand quietly but do not relish.

    Whether or not you agree with the plumber, harvest away ye hearties. Kalabash in Friebourg but not in spanners while it's raining. Bring out the mustard but flap flap flap until takeoff. Why would you say such a thing in the presence of the substrate? 64. 1112. Welcome to the new sandwich lumberyard. Bus stops follow movement, or do they?

    The impediment to your posterior is large but can be dissected with chestnuts. Obermeyer. Glasnost and shallot cookies will do the main job when a steamshovel is too distant for pomegranate.

    And remember, never ever miss an opportunity to watch an elephant paint Mozart.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • joe

      Very nice. Now, wipe the foam off your mouth and lift your arms so we can put you back in your straight jacket.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  14. Anon

    Jesus is a conglomerate of myths, nothing more.
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsaRQDxmLqY&w=640&h=390]

    January 6, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  15. lindaluttrell

    A picture IS worth a thousand words...and in the good old days when very few (aside from priests & scribes) could read & write, it was these "perfect" images that filled the temple seats! Religious iconography is a story all on its own! Given the time that Jesus lived, there were no toilets and showers...so, of course he got "dirty." To read a story and fail to put it into the times it is written short-changes that story. Jesus was a man...he got dirty...and if he followed the laws of the land at that time he probably was married. If you are a true believer, I fail to see how any of this could be upsetting...

    January 6, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  16. diane

    Now THIS is a helpful, thoughtful piece on Christianity. All of the early followers were trouble-makers for the Lord. Thanks for the direction and insight.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  17. Bill

    OK CNN. Now do the same thing on Mohammed.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Peg

      Already done. Search tools can be your friend.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • studyexpert

      many in this world have lost respect for everyone (their parents, kids, neighbours, friends, Prophets, God etc).. This article is crap because the miracle of Jesus's(pbuh) birth shows signs to SENSIBLE, his words and life is example for all humanity. And the writer is pretending that he could tell exactly how it was like in those days. Another try of selling words...
      Now coming to your reply of Mohammad(pbuh), I DARE CNN to do this. Muslims respect Jesus and Mohammad A LOT, and by A LOT means more than many things in their lives.. I hope CNN acts sensible.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • LUMINA

      Dear Bill!

      I admire your sensitivity and hope that THE ONE blesses you with a very long and peaceful life

      January 6, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Old Soldier

      Uhhhh...that might not be the best idea in the world. Whereas most Christians would read and consider an article, Islamic yardbirds would declare the writer a criminal, and possibly attempt to murder him. They might then fly a Cessna into CNN headquarters for publishing/facilitating like that. But this article's writer must remember that Jesus watched far less television, ate far fewer Big Macs, and spent very little time typing blogs on His iPad. As one person here noted, you have to place everything in context with Jesus' human environment. And when tempted for 40 days by Satan, it proves Satan and God understood Jesus was just a Man, albeit a Man literally "of God". He also wouldn't have looked like the typical Hollywood version we see in movies or TV. He wouldn't have had the straight, light hair and blue eyes of some of the actors chosen for the part. He would have been at least bi-lingual and likely multi-lingual (he lived in Egypt much of his life; he spoke his home city's predominant language and dialect; he was a small businessman doing carpentry for pay; he likely spoke Latin due to the Roman occupation which means he might have spoken many languages as the Roman military was comprised of soldiers from across these pier). When he allowed the woman to wash his feet after walking many miles on dusty roads, that same dirt would have covered his body and clothing. Yep, He was just a Man! Tchuss!

      January 6, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  18. Jack 21

    I hear the gop is moving away from Christianity and embracing the Mormon Religion........they fell in love with the Mormon Magical Underwear that Romney supplied the gop with.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  19. Rob

    What an utterly ridiculous article...

    January 6, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Peg

      What an utterly shallow comment.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  20. shh

    This guy must take it in the chili ring. They all hate God.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Peg

      God doesn't exist.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • studyexpert

      Peg HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Seyedibar

      @studyexpert
      probably by extrapolation. Of the over 3000 gods that man has worshiped, we have found no proof of existence of gods. And likewise, we have already proven that the gods mentioned in the Old Testament were merely ancient kings, and not supernatural. Modern history and science offers tested explanations that don't require supernatural occurrances. It doesn't leave much left to believe in.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      studyexpert: How do you know he does? A non-believer is not making the claim a god exists, that is the believer and thus the burden of proof lies on you (and attempt to do so without using circular reasoning-no resorting to your buybull). Better to admit to not knowing then look like a fool and claim you do.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:35 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.