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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. snowboarder

    i am off to buy some wine for the ravens/colts game.

    remember. questioning religious doctrine is a virtue.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  2. Family of 10

    From a family of 10 brothers and sisters a saying we had it is not the g-od factor that controls us mom it is the other G
    factor Mom (greed)

    January 6, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  3. yosemite sam

    Look at how angry the christians are on this article.

    They can't stand the thought that folks would understand their messiah either never existed, or was just a dirty hallucinating hermit!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • TC

      Interesting how angry you atheists get and interesting why you all spend so much time here – I guess since you can't vent in public, this is the only place.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • on the other hand, facts

      I'm so angry. RRR! I must therefore be wrong. aww...

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Luis Wu

      TC – You're right. We can't vent in public, you Christians would burn down our houses, trash our cars, abuse our children etc. Ever notice that's what happens when someone opposes prayers in public schools or government meetings, etc. etc.? You Christians are the most hateful people in America.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  4. believer6

    It's funny how people (non-believers) try to change the ways the Lord has made for us. You can try but you never will be able to eradicate Jesus. I do believe, dirty or not, that he was the most blessed man and son of God. Besides he knew he was always was going to be criticized. Remember what he said: "He That Is Without Sin, Cast The First Stone".

    "Seyedibar

    Your religion is already been disproven. All the gods of the Old Testament have been proven to be earthly kings and folk heroes. Hence, there have never been actual gods to build christianity upon. Even if there were a christ, his entire philosophy would have been constructed on a misunderstanding of the gods his people revered. There is no value n your religion."

    However, you cannot DISPROVE IT EITHER....I will see you begging for mercy when he comes back again to judge the living and the dead. You have to prove me you statement because the bible Cleary states his existence ! My religion has more value than your words of discouragement. You just made me stronger believer of my religion!!! Thanks!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • TC

      You have to understand atheist are angry; hence they troll. They make up a small percentage of the population and are too afraid to speak their minds in public.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • yosemite sam

      You cannot disprove the invisible pink unicorn only I can hear created everything 10,000 years ago.

      It commands you worship it, and abandon christianity.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Angry? Really? Why?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • snowboarder

      your bible is a collection of occasionally noble myths.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Delusional much?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • JWT

      So you worship a complete moron ? Interesting.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • believer6

      Feeling for those non believers, you will never enjoy the Kingdom in heaven...your hate blind you from seeing the real truth about Jesus and God.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • believer6

      a prayer for non believers and believers:
      We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary , and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  5. yosemite sam

    For 35 years after jesus supposedly lived and died, not one text speaks of his existence. Not a statue, statuette, scroll, tablet, engraving, monument, sword hilt, helmet, or anything else ascribed to jesus or identifying his character.

    If this were the case with any other "historical" figure we would assume that figure was mythical- but people pick and choose which myths they want to believe, and in the current age they like the mythical jesus to be their skydaddy.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • TC

      The notion of a miracle would be lost on you, so don't rack that tiny brain of yours too hard/

      January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Oh dear tc, that hatred of yours will get you a warm afterlife.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • TC

      No hatred – just pity for those with anger and no humility and whose only desire is to cause chaos. Atheists don't show up in these foums to engage in intellectual debate. Do you bother to read what your buddies write?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • sloand0709

      Several historical texts speak of his existence, including Roman legal texts and the writings of a prominent Jewish philosopher.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      And now you are also adding lying to the list TC. We have seen your insulting posts on here so please, don't claim no hatred.
      Lying and hatred. You are on a slippery slope now.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  6. Dupper

    He was at the very top of mankinds ability to create things as a carpenter was the top of science in those days.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  7. Augustus

    Cnn Reporters are too much.Thay talk and write things they do not understand. Every one who read and say In Jesus name this reporter die like a dog and go to hell. For sake of inocent people.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I would say this professor of religion knows far more than you.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Luis Wu

      How utterly stupid.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Primewonk

      Can't you just feel the christian love oozing form this cretin!

      January 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  8. Upmuchtoolate

    Enjoy hell, Johnnie Moore.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      So what exactly did you disagree with?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  9. DavidS

    Do you even believe what you wrote? Was it Jesus or god that had diarrhea?

    While I can agree that Jesus was a man just like the rest of us, you fail your own argument. This is the biggest reason I hate being a Christian. Jesus was not god, is not god, and never will be god. He is and always is the son of god. It is his humanity that makes him better than god at understanding us. Jesus has experienced and learned from a life that god will never know nor ever begin to understand. You just don't stop being god for 30+yrs and say hey I know what its like to be human better than any other human. To even begin to suggest that Jesus was god defies the whole purpose of Jesus' need to live as man, overcome temptation as man, and die without sin as man. If he did his work as god; he failed in his mission.

    god was not on that cross that day and he sure as hell did not spend any quality time with his son the next three days. In fact Jesus himself said he had to leave to go see is father, because god was not yet with him. Give Jesus his credit as a man that over came and stop insulting him buy calling god. As if the son of god could only do what he did, if we was god. Why belittle the power and authority of Jesus by denying him for what he was, a man first and the son of god second?

    In my own words and without permission, I offer you this short segment from an old Palestinian story.

    There are places even angels fear to tread. As she arrived, before any eye could understand who she was she commanded of him "Do not ask me, because I can not say no." He asked for water. She brought him a cup.

    The monument Marry recognized the eyes of the angel she knew who this angel was and why she was there. She was there to do what god would not do. There was no god there that day, just a man and his family, and the weight of the world.

    Thank you.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Jesus was no more the son of god than anyone else. His life was blown out of proportion because he was a martyr and an iconic figure that was ahead of his time. It's just ancient mythology and superst!ious nonsense from a primitive culture.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  10. yosemite sam

    I have faith that goblins exist- prove me wrong! I read about them in a book!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  11. Joe

    I always find it funny how much you can extrapolate from a single source. After all there are no contemporary, extra-biblical sources that point to Jesus directly, or speak of his character. All this information these countless articles are based on a book that contains a skybeing ordering the deaths of millions, a talking snake, a man living inside of a whale, and a whole lot of other guff. SO excuse me if I don't put much stock in any article written about Jesus's life. Until we find some actual sources of information that are not misquoted, badly translated, or just wrong, im putting the topic of Jesus in the I don't know category as should everyone.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  12. yosemite sam

    Anyone ever wonder where the story of Eden or of the flood comes from? If you said "the bible" you're off by about 500 years- these stories first appear in... SUMERIAN literature!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  13. Atheisticallyyours

    Try reading D.M. Bennett's "An Open Letter to Jesus Christ" for an HINEST perspective of what this "Jesus" character may have been like (assuming he existed!)

    January 6, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  14. TC

    Yes, we get it atheists don't believe in God only themselves. Why are you here? Oh that's right trolling and causing problems, how noble of you atheists who have all the answers.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Colin

      Ok, we'll make a deal with you. We'll stay out of your blog sites if you stay out of schools and government. Deal?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • TC

      Deal as long as you keep your lib beliefs out of the federal government and let states do all the work. Anywho, any atheist on a beleif blog is a troll that is not a self-respecting human being – grow up.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Luis Wu

      We're here because we oppose ignorance and stupidity and I for one will take every opportunity to speak out against it.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • TC

      Well you've proven your ignorance and stupidity by the belief that you have all the answers, not to mention a lack of humility. Bored and scared comes to mind.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Luis Wu

      TC – You're the one who's ignorant and stupid. I'm not the one that believes in invisible, supernatural beings in the sky, you are.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "TC", but "God" is an element of mythology. In addition, "TC", your assertions regarding atheists are also unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Scared tc? You seem determined not to be challenged by anyone. You should stay home if you feel that way.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  15. yosemite sam

    Anyone ever notice that "what god wants" always seems to coincide to "what the moral majority/elite wants"?

    Coincidence? I think not: The elite are using you folks HAHA if you think any of these megapreachers give two craps about jesus or god, you're wrong... pass the offering plate and give big!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  16. Sean McElroy

    Why is this even on CNN?

    January 6, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Really. Why are they pandering to ignorance and stupidity? They're promoting ancient mythology and primitive superst!tious nonsense as if it were real. It really scares me how many people believe in this ignorant nonsense.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  17. really?

    hmmmm....my soul is already clean and your article is a nice sentiment that God came in the form of Jesus. Perhaps God already did come in the form of Aphrodite or Hera.....now we have a woman to be worshipped.....let's take our imagination in that direction I think we would more likely to be "clean" and "nurtured" unlike this Jesus fellow who as you state was dirty, rowdy and rude and then died. Heavenly Moms way better concept ! Christianity/religion is for dummies!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  18. Seyedibar

    There is no reason to presume any connection of divinity to Jesus. The tale of the messiah's virgin mother being impregnated by a god on Dec 25 is borrowed from much earlier cultures. The tale of the messiah dying and being reborn after 3 days is also much older. Even if the man himself actually lived, the stories that you attribute to him are false, hence there is no reason to assume he could be the son of any god.
    If you overlook sucha fact, then how do you discount the claims of every other demigod: Hercules, Garuda, Hanuman, Helen of Troy, Krishna, Marshal Applegate, etc

    January 6, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  19. BigMacAttack

    Along this line of thinking I recommend Christopher Moore's 'Lamb-the gospel according to Biff" a wonderful read that makes one laugh out loud and think. enjoy

    January 6, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  20. Bob

    Christianity is for the gays.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • on the other hand, facts

      and the bottoms

      January 6, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Bob

      The tops can be Christians too. They just need strap-ons.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • on the other hand, facts

      Mel Gibson just needs to be restrained.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:48 am |
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