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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. SixDegrees

    If one of Jesus' petrified dumps ever turns up, you can be certain that his followers would build a shrine around it and venerate it.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • sam stone

      or, someone will study the DNA

      January 6, 2013 at 7:46 am |
  2. TvNyC

    I believe in Jesús.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • mb2010a

      I believe he did a half-way decent job of mowing my lawn...

      January 6, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  3. Canadian Jack

    What part of the brain does faith occupy. The same part that dreams up fairy tails but winds up believing absolutely in their truth. What cure for this malady? Studying science. But do not lose hope people of faith. Theoretical physicists have published in peer reviewed articles that the universe is not real. It is a hologram. Your brain contains more data than the limits of your skull. It too is hologram. People of faith may now say I know who is projecting this hologram. Who would now say they are wrong.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • james

      I'm sorry but it is you that are ill.

      I'm a Scientist and I'm fairly faithful.

      There is no contradiction between spirituality and science, only some religious tidbits and science. I'm Christian and I don't believe that Jesus was 'magic' – but there are very good anthropological reasons for the stories of his 'magic'.

      What is 'delusional' is to assume that you are merely a collection of subatomic particles, randomly bouncing through the Universe.

      It is 'delusion' to assume that the small handful of equations that we know govern the physical Universe are sufficient to explain the life form that you are.

      In fact – it is unscientific to do so.

      Yes – there are too many 'religionists' who believe in fairy tales.

      But there are just as many supposedly 'rational' thinkers who are actually walking contradictions of their own ridiculous ego.

      Wake up, fool.

      You are a walking, talking manifestation of Spirit.

      Yes – you are mostly a 'bag of particles' – and those particles behave according to the rules of physics – but at the Quantum physical level – nothing is deterministic – i.e. there is lots of room for spirit.

      The thing that keeps you fools in the darkness is only your ego, in revolt. You 'ate from the tree of knowledge' and you have been ego seeking in materialism ever since.

      You can safely ignore most religious nuts, but the fundamental truth is that Spirituality trumps Materialism.

      SCIENCE IS JUST A TOOL. THAT'S IT. IT'S NOT 'TRUTH'.

      Wake up fool. Witness the beauty of creation all around you. It's not an accident.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • mb2010a

      Welcome to the Matrix...

      January 6, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • New human speices

      Here is what GOOD about $

      Read this the other day what is GOOD about $$$$$$$ & SCIENCE is it is the TRUTH if you want to BELIEVE it or NOT
      From Fish to Human: Research Reveals How Fins Became Legs

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121210124521.htm

      January 6, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • the AnViL

      james posits:

      "I'm a Scientist and I'm fairly faithful." uh – yeah – sure you are – just judging from the brief reply you've submitted i find it very hard to believe you made it past the 8th grade.

      "There is no contradiction between spirituality and science,.."

      hogwash – there isn't a shred of evidence to support the existence of "spirits" or "souls" or "ghosts". you're full of sh1t.

      "It is 'delusion' to assume that the small handful of equations that we know govern the physical Universe are sufficient to explain the life form that you are."

      which small handful of equations would that be that describe our life-form??

      if it's just a few – how about listing them.

      i loved this gem: "at the Quantum physical level – nothing is deterministic – i.e. there is lots of room for spirit."

      thank you for professor for demonstrating blatant idiocy on a national public forum.

      you shame science. shame on you.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • gregniowa

      And how blind does a person have to be to consider a massive, molecular database filled with data and knowledge beyond our present full comprehension that is made up of 104 billion atoms, (the human DNA molecule) and even consider for a moment scientifically that it came about by unguided chemical means. The idea is intellectually laughable.

      Honest and true scientific observation contributes to realizing the amazing design of the cosmos.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • the AnViL

      gregniowa: intelligent design = delusional cognitive bias and ignorance.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  4. New human species

    New human species to clear up debate

    Neanderthals and hobbits aren't the only species that may have coexisted with modern humans. Scientists in southwest China have discovered the bizarrely shaped skulls of a possible new human species called the Red Deer Cave People that existed until the end of the ice age, about 11,000 years ago. The odd skeletons had prominent jaws and jutting cheekbones, and middling-sized brains more commonly seen in human ancestors from hundreds of thousands of years ago.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:34 am |
  5. Bootyfunk

    jesus' hands are dirty because he was doing yard work. want to meet jesus? come to my house on friday afternoon. he's always there. that guy works crazy-hard! nice guy, too. sometimes he trims the hedges back a little too far, but otherwise, grade A landscaper.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • New Human speices

      @ Bootyfunk
      Can we hire him to clean the CAVE.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  6. Pete Ranges

    Why doesn't CNN publish an article in this light about Muhammad? Do they have the guts? Or is it only my religion that can be talked about in this light? I don't have a problem with it, but just make sure it's fair game for everyone.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Because – as you and your ilk are so fond of pointing out – there is a preponderance of christians in the US, at which this article is aimed. And a paucity of muslims. Or at least, that's what you claim when you prattle on about the US being a 'christian' nation.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • elgeevz

      Aah, so succinct and rational reply a reply!

      January 6, 2013 at 7:58 am |
  7. ForReal

    Good article. Finally a religious opinion article written by someone who believes in God.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  8. mark

    Jesus-fully human and fully god, why do you think God would humble himself and be with his creation(total love), when sin entered the world we were seperated from God forever, God pure, and humans tainted, the only way was for God to send Jesus to pay the price of sin, he took the sting out of death, and bridged the gap for humans and heaven, there is no greater sacrifice, God loves all of us, I was an unbeliever ,but came to the truth-read the book of John and make up your own mind-so many people taint Gods word, but the Holy bible is the truth and it will set you free. be warned!! becoming a follower of Jesus may cost you, you will not be the same and like Jesus you may face rejection and tough times, find a strong christian church and have fellowship, remember Jesus says to love God and love each other.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • mb2010a

      I suggest you read the rest of the Bible...you may change your mind.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:50 am |
  9. student3453

    I find this article extremely offensive.

    Whomever hateful creature wrote this has no interest to know Jesus. All I read are direct insults against Jesus, whom we believe to be our Father, Master and Creator.

    This is a Christian crime. Only a filthy creature would dare to spit poison into the minds of Christians who love Jesus dearly.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Michael Roberts

      You are one with the crowd in John 6:66, you cannot stand the truth.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • SixDegrees

      I bet Jesus cornholed a few pigs in his time, too.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • NClaw441

      Student3453– I can't agree with you on this. Jesus came to earth to live life as a man, which included all the trappings of humanness: being born, breathing, having the hiccups, going to the bathroom (such as bathrooms were at the time), etc. etc. To deny this is to deny God's plan, in my view. Certainly you don't deny that Christ suffered the ultimate humiliation of the cross– only to triumph over it...

      January 6, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Andrew

      This isn't an insult to christians. What is an insult to Adonai, is the constant false doctrine that is being preached everyday and every week of the year. His name is Yeshua by the way, not Jesus.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Johnl

      Why in the world would you find this offensive? If Jesus existed then everything he said in this article is true. He would've had to have gone to the bathroom and even the bible confirms he was a pretty caustic individual.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • student3453

      These people are your typical Christians who compromise with atheists and other faiths in order to find a peaceful solution, while at the same time sell Jesus for a few coins.

      These Christians do not defend Jesus, nor do they feel the need to protect Him from insults.
      They do not want to be hated or insulted by the world, because they feel that it is better to love the flesh than to love the Son of God.

      Just remember, on Judgement day Jesus will remember your words, and how you represented love towards God in the world.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      "Just remember, on Judgement day Jesus will remember your words"

      Now that's typical christian-Believe in my imaginary friend or suffer for it. That type of threat doesn't make your god worthy of belief.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  10. netw0rk

    I think Moore's article is profoundly accurate. Of course none of us can know what Jesus was really like in the flesh because we weren't there, but since we know that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, he must have been human in every respect. And that includes the idea that he was dirty, sweaty, smelled badly, farted, and went to the bathroom. He probably suffered from common human ailments sometimes like a cold and the flu – and maybe even the runs. He had to go through these things in order to completely identify with mankind. And to the self-professed "expert" who claims that the Romans "invented" the idea that Jesus had a dual nature, that person needs to read church history. The Romans really had nothing to do with it.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  11. elle

    "The brilliance of Christianity is the image of a God, named Jesus" umm...Jesus IS God...professor, *sigh*

    January 6, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • atheist

      One minute he's the SON of god, the next he IS god. Which is it?

      January 6, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      atheist: It's the delusion of the minute...made to fit whatever they need it to fit. It's not much different then them using the OT when it suits them but denying its validity otherwise. They refuse to open their minds to the ACTUAL evidence and thus don't live for this world.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:58 am |
  12. Michael Roberts

    This author has posted a relevant and meaningful idea that should help wayward "Christians" see Him as he was,not as the biblically-forbidden graphic images we have come to know too well depict him, and helps us to understand John 6:66 (why the majority of his followers turned away: he was not apparently any different from the rest of us). The only difference between Him and us was the words he spoke. The detractors of this article speak blathering nonsense, in display of their wanton ignorance.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  13. ldm1

    And of course all the Christian responses continue to show how thin-skinned they are. Some even believe Jesus to be a composite of several different people, a remake of the story of Osiris from Ancient Egypt (they are very similar) or even just a made up legend, like Santa Claus.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • Michael Roberts

      Satan has no end of besmirching ideas to tarnish the legend of the Lord. You are evidently in his camp, although you probably don't believein him either.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  14. Bootyfunk

    jesus christ walks into an inn. he hands the innkeeper 3 nails and says...

    can you put me up for the night?

    an oldie but a goodie... :)

    January 6, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • Medician145

      Why couldn't JC eat M&Ms? They kept falling through the holes in his hands!

      January 6, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • John A

      You guys need to be on Letterman.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  15. Al

    This is newsworthy????????? This does nothing except to degrade our Lord. The meaningless dribble about body functions is just that..............temporal ......just like CNN.....this too will pass.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  16. Moohamit

    Abortion:

    Hosea 9:11-16 Hosea prays for God’s intervention. “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, 0 Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. . .Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.” Clearly Hosea desires that the people of Ephraim can no longer have children. God of course obeys by making all their unborn children miscarry. Is not terminating a pregnancy unnaturally “abortion”?

    Numbers 5:11-21 The description of a bizarre, brutal and abusive ritual to be performed on a wife SUSPECTED of adultery. This is considered to be an induced abortion to rid a woman of another man’s child.

    Numbers 31:17 (Moses) “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every women that hath known man by lying with him.” In other words: women that might be pregnant, which clearly is abortion for the fetus.

    Hosea 13:16 God promises to dash to pieces the infants of Samaria and the “their women with child shall be ripped up”. Once again this god kills the unborn, including their pregnant mothers.

    2 Kings 15:16 God allows the pregnant women of Tappuah (aka Tiphsah) to be “ripped open”. And the Christians have the audacity to say god is pro-life. How and the hell is it that Christians can read passages where God allows pregnant women to be murdered, yet still claim abortion is wrong?

    Infanticide:

    1 Samuel 15:3 God commands the death of helpless "suckling" infants. This literally means that the children god killed were still nursing.

    Psalms 135:8 & 136:10 Here god is praised for slaughtering little babies.

    Psalms 137:9 Here god commands that infants should be “dashed upon the rocks”.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Al

      Amen

      January 6, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      which Dr. Seuss book is that from? horton hears a who? one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish? definitely not green eggs and ham... i give up, but i'll ask my niece tomorrow.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Kenn deMoll

      You're making the classic mistake most people make when "accusing" God of something in scripture. If you got these scripture passages off a website, go and actually read the verses. If you found these verses yourself, go back and re-read and ask yourself one question: who is speaking? I guarantee you, it won't be god. Moses is a prophet, but he's not god and not speaking for God all the time. Killings being recorded doesn't mean God commanded them. What you're doing is kind of if I opened a book to a random page and assumed that's was what the whole book was about because of what I had read

      January 6, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Kenn deMoll: You claim that it wasn't your god that said that stuff but yet, most christians believe the buybull is god-inspired. Which version of the delusion is correct?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:24 am |
  17. TvNyC

    I love Jesus

    January 6, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Medician145

      I love Tinker Bell!

      January 6, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • atheist

      Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Boogeyman all came over for tea last night. Such good people!

      January 6, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Atheist: what the magic silver unicorn couldn't make it? ;-)

      January 6, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • John A

      Me too. Can't wait on that Day when every knee will bow down and call Jesus "Lord".

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

      I love imaginary characters too!

      January 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • John A

      Can't wait until all falsehood, lies and arrogance of people will come to end. God, good and truth will win over Satan, evil and lies. The spiritual war has been won, the question is which side do I choose to be on.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
  18. H4abworld

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore.

    CNN Johnnie Moore is employed by your network. Any opinion he has is yours. Also any comments you agree to post.
    Stop trying to distant your network from opinions you own.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • ObamaFailedU

      Yes, H4abworld, clearly CNN is filled with a bunch of Christians, right wing Fundamentalists, that want to push Jesus on the masses. It really stands for "Christian News Network," but don't tell anybody.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Saraswati

      So I take it you're proposing that no media outlet publish anything which isn't in alignment with an official opinion statment agreed to by the corporation? No opinion pieces, no blogs, no letters to the editor? Heck, no comments...they published what you wrote, so I guess that's an official position of CNN?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
  19. Jonathan Hutchins

    I have no problem thinking of Jesus as fully man; it's the fully god part I question.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • John A

      What do you have see or hear before you accept and believe? People are people, do you think people in Jesus' generation believed his authority despite seeing miracles being performed? Even his apostles had a hard time understanding his deity at first.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  20. felix1877

    Romans killed a political activist very brutally, then created a cult around that poor guy to control all the people, now you try to insult that poor guy. It's like recent Indian r-pers of that poor girl who had been killed very brutally by them, then if that r-pers would have been in power over India, and if they would have needed to create a cult to strengthen their power, that poor girl would have been the perfect candidate for them. It's the story of Jesus, I think. Do not insult that poor guys all the time, on and on.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:26 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.