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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. iteogu fred

    An encounter with Jesus is an experience beyond words... I was in your "camp" sometime ago but now I know much better. IteoguFred

    January 6, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Edweird69

      You had an encounter with Jesus? You are psychotic at best.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  2. Mohammad A Dar

    Jesus was a carpenter,
    Jesus had to get his hands dirty,
    Jesus was catching common cold,
    Jesus suffered food poisoning and diarrhea,
    Jesus had to go to bathroom on side of the road [Moore left to everyone to imagine how he cleaned],
    Jesus had a wife,

    if you're a true believer of Jesus, you should be saying loud SO WHAT? but if you believe he was Dr Manhattan then you're delusional,,,,,,,,,,, and your days are numbered

    January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Jesus was a man born with purchased Roman citizenship and the carpenter story is a lie.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  3. John

    I would agree with this article but for the fact that Jesus Christ's ministry as It grew also had wealthy patrons that surely must hae helped him out financially, and thus helped make him presentable to his friends as well as his enemies. I am thinking in particular about Lazarus and Joseph of Aramethea. If he was some stinking mess as the article suggests I am certain few would have take the trouble to listen to him and thus he would not have gained a reputation that the Parisees nor the Roman government would have bothered to worry about, in today's terms people such as Jimmy Swaggart are not hard up for cash as a result of their followers I am certain a person that created something (believe in it or not) that has lasted 2000 years was not the appearances equivalent of the nutcases of today screaming "scripture".

    January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  4. End Religion

    try again?

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaqdFnjKClE&w=640&h=390]

    January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  5. inspiration

    I wonder if we looked real hard at the ditches by the road where Jesus was known to have defecated it could still find his coprolite! "Imagine" how much we could learn from that!

    It would give entirely new meaning to the expression "holy sh..."

    January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  6. Religion_Is_Slavery

    Who cares?

    January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  7. yosemite sam

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJNIDTIjAbk&w=640&h=390]

    January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  8. Bonnie

    To answer your questions about why this article was written, it is for sensationalism. However, it also produces opportunities to share opposing, accurate information. Jesus was clean in heart, and undefiled. Jesus said that it is what comes out of the heart that defiles and dirties mankind. "For example, out of the heart come wicked reasonings,murders, adulteries,fornications, thieveries, false testimonies,blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man..." Matthew 15:18&19. Defile: To make foul, dirty, unclean, pollute. BTW, Jesus is not God and he made that very clear also.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • End Religion

      Jesus was not "clean in heart, and undefiled" – why do you think the 13-30 years aren't in the bible? He was smoking pot, joining rock bands and partying in Vegas like any normal person. This just didn't lend itself to the mystique. Educate yourself!

      January 6, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  9. yosemite sam

    "Goblins and tooth fairies and ghosts are just nonsense."
    "But my 2,000 year old resurrected carpenter messiah is true!"

    Christian logic... flawless.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  10. Maria Carvalho

    Let's file this under "Unnecessary articles full of suppositions nobody cares about". CNN, how about getting some real columnists for a change? First William Bennet and now this insipic clown?

    January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  11. PeteH

    I love it when college types figure this kind of thing out and profess it like it's an epiphany (gee-today's the feast of the Epiphany; go figure). Jesus lived in the world we live in and was subjected to everything trial and tribulation we're subjected to. He showed us that a godly life could indeed be lived, no matter what situation you faced; even being nailed to a cross. He was indeed fully God and fully man. BTW; Evangelicals aren't the only ones who believe this. They got this belief from us Catholics...

    January 6, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "PeteH", but "He" and "God" are elements of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Bonnie

      Yes, and your church is spoken of at Revelation 17:5 and all of chapter 18. Read it carefully.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  12. End Religion

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries&w=640&h=390]

    January 6, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  13. Mohammad

    Did Jesus Prophesy the coming of Muhammad?

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

      No, because Jesus is the only way to get home to his and our Almighty God. "I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6 in the Bible.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Mohammad

      I am asking because as I watching the movie passion of the christ I heard the actor playing Jesus reading the verse 16:7 from the gospel of John, as follows: "Al teethe khalone, heefe MUNAHMA…" . Aramaic language and Arabic have common roots and that word sounded alot a like Mohammad to me speaking Arabic. What was Jesus saying?

      January 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Mohammed, at John 16:7, Jesus is speaking about God's holy (incorruptible) spirit. Please read on through to verse 13 where he identifies the "helper" as the "spirit of the truth" and not a third person. Please see also Luke 11:9-13. "...how much more so will the Father give holy spirit to those asking him!"

      January 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • the praisworthy

      yes
      he did and even moses did

      January 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Jesus said, "In fact, if you believed Moses you would believe me, for that one wrote about me." John 5:46. Please also see what Moses wrote from what he heard from God at Deuteronomy 18:15-19. "A prophet from your own midst, from your brothers..." Brothers he was speaking to were Hebrews/Jews. Mohammed was not a Jew. Jesus was a Jew.

      Thepraisworthy, where in the Bible did Moses or Jesus refer to Mohammed; show us exactly, please.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • the praisworthy

      jews asked john the baptist twice : are you elijah ? he said no ,are you the messiah he said no ,are you the prophet he said no,
      we know who is elijah and we know who is the messiah but who is the prophet

      January 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Luke chapter 1, verse 17, speaking of John the Baptist, "Also, he will go before him with Elijah's spirit and power to turn back the hearts......." (Please read the entire chapter at Luke 1) Matthew Chapter 17, verses 1-13. Jesus tells them Elijah has already come, and in verse 13, "The the disciples perceived that he spoke to them about John the Baptist.." Per God's own promise, Elijah would come first, and he did. No true prophet of Almighty God would dispute Jesus' teachings or the fact that Jesus is the anointed Son of God. John denied even that he was a prophet, but rather a voice as was foretold by Isaiah. John 1:23 and Isaiah chapter 40, verse 3. Malachi 3:1 and 4:5.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  14. yosemite sam

    The christian trolls here are so sad- they want to fart for their mythical messiah all day while wearing size 89 tweed suits and horn rimmed glasses the size of bicycle tires.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  15. the praisworthy

    "GOD IS NOT A MAN THAT SHOULD LIE" man lie god doesn't so god can not be a man if so he'll lie ,jesus is not god,jesus was a prophet delivered a message from God to his people, the message was and is god is one and there is nothing like him ,so we can not know how god look like ,jesus performed miracles with the help of GOD to justify to his people that he's sent from God ,All the prophets performed miracles ,jesus never claimed to be GOD but instead he claimed there is only One God .........

    January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "the praisworthy", but "God" and "miracles" are elements of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      January 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Well said, praiseworthy! Here's what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene: "I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to MY God and your God." John 20:17.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • the praisworthy

      Jesus teaches the unity of god ,that God is one ,but the church teaches the trinity in the name of Jesus ,that's ridiculous blasphemy! unacceptable ,only idiomatic people beleive that , well the truth is in the bible when you read it carefully MR IDIOMATIC

      January 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Yes, thepraisworthy, the three-person god-ghost false conception is that of Pagans. Those who believe in a 3-person or 3-god, god are Pagans, NOT Christians. No where, in the Holy (incorruptible) Bible is the word "trinity". Jesus made it clear that he is not God; only those who do not study Jesus' teachings found at Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible are thoroughly deceived by falsehood.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • the praisworthy

      i believe there is a holly bible somewhere locked in the Vatican or so,the bible that people read now is corrupted,nobody can deny that. and nowadays anybody can speak on the name of Jesus but who says the truth? Only one book does and it's the Holly quran and speaks the truth about Jesus and about people that they corrupted his message to gain worldly pleasures ,but there is a problem : the media won't let people to know what Islam is, by giving them a bad image calling them terrorist and other different names, to say the truth you have to pay a price !!at least muslims they cannot mock Jesus nor his mother nor any prophet , when i look at some comments about islam i ask myself did jesus told them to attack islam or be nice and respect ? i do not get upset when people attack islam but instead i pray to God to guide them to the right path

      January 6, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Without any disrespect toward you, thepraisworthy, ANYONE who denies that Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of Almighty God is an antichrist. Anti: Against. Against Christ. An Islamic acquaintance of mine told me that the Koran claims the angel Gabriel came to Mohammed and told him that Jesus is NOT the Son of God. This denial of Jesus as being the Christ "anointed one" the Son of God, is clearly anti-christ, who denies the very word of God as spoken to Abraham, just like the 3-headed god-ghost believers.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • the praisworthy

      bonnie please go to http://www.islamreligion.comand click on comparative religions , this website might help you to know what really son of god means in the ancient languge (aramaic),and if you have any question let me know

      January 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Thank you, thepraisworthy, but as with all words, they are capable of multiple meanings. The meaning of Son, as used by God to describe Jesus, is one who inherits the property of the father. God is speaking to Abraham, "And He went on to say, take, please, your son, your only son whom you so love, Isaac....." Genesis 22:2. The same "son" is used to describe Jesus. Hebrews chapter 1, verses 1&2. Jesus has inherited the kingdom of God, and upon his return, the kingdom will be handed back over to His God and Father so that Almighty God will be all in all. 1st Corinthians 15:24. Jesus is also the last true prophet (one who foretells the future) and is the Messiah. Please notice that Mohammed came around hundreds of years later. Again, he who denies that Jesus is the absolute Son of God is opposing Jesus, and therefore opposing Almighty God. Please see Isaiah 7:14. "maiden ....giving birth to a son......call his name Immanuel, meaning With Us Is God (by spirit)

      January 6, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Just to be clear, Jesus is deinitely NOT Almighty God. God said He would put His spirit or shem, character, in Jesus and command him what to speak. That is the meaning of the word Immanuel, With Us is God. Please see Isaiah 11:1&2.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  16. Jack 21

    Funny the Devout christians were not offended or angry when they voted and supported Romney who is a non christian cultist who thinks his Mormon Magical Underwear has Magical Powers and protects them from evil................

    January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      Actually the Christian right stayed home in 2012 and the devil won the election.

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

      "the devil won the election"

      lol

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

      Actually the devil lost out in the republican nominations.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  17. Colin

    Christians who cite the bible to support their belief in their god remind me of the insurance advertisement where the girle believes her blind date is a French model because she read it on the internet. She knows the internet can never lie because she read so on the internet.

    In theis vein, perhaps a Christian can explain the difference the first two example of circular reasoning and the third.

    “I believe Obama is a great man because his biography says so, and the reason I believe his biography is that it is about Obama, who is a great man.”

    “I believe David Koresh was a wise and great prophet because the Branch Davidians wrote a book saying he is. I believe that book because it was inspired by David Koresh, a wise and great prophet.”

    “I believe God exists because it says so in the Bible. I believe the Bible because it is the inspired word of God.”

    January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Don camp

      No. I believe the Bible because it speaks to me with the powerful voice of God.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • snowboarder

      don, or so you have been lead to believe.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Don camp

      No, actually, snow, it is not what I have been told and therefore believe. It is my experience. And it is my experience almost every time I open the Bible and read.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  18. Jack 21

    Funny the Devout christians were not offended or angry when they voted and supported Romney who is a non christian cultist who thinks his Mormon Magical Underwear has Magical Powers and protects them from evil............

    January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  19. John P. Tarver

    Form Luke we know there was a Roman census in the year Christ was born and we know from history that Roman census were for Roman citizens. Therefore, when Joseph travels to Bethleham, he is there to pay a poll tax at his familial home; also translated as Inn. We also know from history that Harod the Great died in 4bce, so the story the Church made up with respect to the birth of Chist is an obvious lie. Additionally, when Paul is about to be executed he proclaims, "you can not kill me like someone with purchased roman citizenship", a clear reference to Christ.

    We do not need more lies about Jesus the common man.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  20. Edweird69

    How come your ‘omnipotent’ creature couldn’t do all that supposed saving without the loony son sacrifice bit anyway? And for that matter, how was it a sacrifice at all, when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time it wants with less than a snap of its fingers? Pretty feeble god.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • John P. Tarver

      All of creation was done so God could live as a Jew for less than 45 years.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Don camp

      Perhaps you have never had occasion to forgive anyone. If you had, this idea of God sacrificing himself would not seem so strange.

      The forgiveness transaction requires the forgiver to bear the hurt that would have been justly required of the one who did the hurting. It is not forgiveness if that does not take place.

      The greater the hurt, the greater the cost to the one who forgives. If anything, the death of God the Son, demonstrates that our /your sin is great. It also demonstrates that it is forgiven.

      But in the forgiveness transaction, forgiveness is not complete – it does not restore the relationship – until it is received. You might think about that a bit.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Edweird69

      @Don – so, the next time someone does something to offend you, are you going to require the death of one of their children to forgive them? Your post is so far-fetched, it's offensive to common sense.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
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