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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. Mary

    Seeing how the people live today in the middle east, mud huts, robes, no water, no air conditioning, and rudimentary standards of sanitation, it should be no surprise that Jesus lived as the times dictated. In embracing humanity, our Lord took all upon himself, including the conditions of the time.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • sybaris

      all things considered the evidence just points to your jesus man just being a megalomaniac and your average mortal Essene priest

      January 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  2. Ivanhoe

    For better insight into religious beliefs and Christ - read the novels
    king of Bat'ha by Hashim
    Tales from the East by Ivanhoe
    based on actual experiences in the Middle East.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  3. shelly

    All you jesus freaks crack me up. He was just a man, nothing more.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • inspiration

      Frankly, he didn't exist. The first writings that mentioned Jesus were about 300 years after the supposed death of Jebus.
      Uninspired, unimaginative writings at best. Rowlings is alot better at it!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      inspiration,
      "The first writings that mentioned Jesus were about 300 years after the supposed death of Jebus."

      No, the first writings were much earlier - perhaps 30-50 years after - but even that doesn't make the supernatural claims true.

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

      Oh yeah? There's no evidence of that at all. The first gospels mentioning Jesus came out about 300 years later.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      inspiration,
      "The first gospels mentioning Jesus came out about 300 years later."

      No, they have writings dating to the 1st century. They were not selected and compiled by church-men into what we call "The Bible" until a couple of centuries later; but as I said, this does not give veracity to a single supernatural claim made in those early stories.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  4. Jim

    Funny how so many people of no faith come to the belief blog because they have nothing else better to do than attempt to be witty and insult people. Odd for those who think themselves so enlightened....

    January 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      It IS odd, and yet, here we are! Hey, Jim – do you believe in Santa Claus? Imagine someone – no, entire populations – who based their lives around their belief in Santa Claus. Wouldn't you think them a tad delusional.

      What about Zeus – he's real. right? Thor, Odin, Ra? It's perfectly rational to believe in them and have your life and your life decisions spring from your belief in Thor, right?

      January 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • inspiration

      The atheist come here to give a hard time to the stupids!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      That we do, inspiration – that we do.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Jim

      You guys just proved my point. You're lives are so devoid of something worthwhile, you're need to be trolls like a 10 year old boy drives you to act like ignorant children.

      Thanks for making the truth clear.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      No problemo, Jimbo – peace out, man.

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

      Jim, having fun is always a worthwhile endeavor. I'm sure Jesus would have approved. Why else would he wear diapers?

      January 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Non-Believer

      inspiration,

      Enjoy your time here on these blogs, but it would be better if you didn't make non-believers look stupid.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • sybaris

      funny how the faithful come to the belief blog to defend their religion and put down people who don't share their beliefs

      January 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  5. 1amazed2u

    What kind of news is this....... Jesus was dirty......... There were no creature comforts like we have now. He was living just like the common man. He does care.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "1amazed2u", but if "Jesus" existed, he is now dead, therefore he cannot "care". 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 1:37 pm |
  6. dreamer96

    From Jesus's Sermon on the Mount..

    If you do not believe in Me ..Then believe in what I do...hmmm like what he did on Earth....Like leaving little do do like everyone else did and does...

    January 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  7. *ray

    Akira, why are you so bitter?

    January 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  8. inspiration

    If one was to look hard enough I'm sure we'd find some Jesus coprolites in them ditches!

    January 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Mmmmm- Copro-licious!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  9. tony

    More on Spirit Physics. Apart from walking thru walls vs,. "feet" resting on ground.
    Staying in the same position on Earth as it spins and travels in orbit requires being subject to the law of gravity, so having weight. It's unlikely there is an "extra dimension" that follows our planet around, rather than any of the trillions of others.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • inspiration

      Proven fact: Jesus walked on water!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Jim

      Tony,

      So you are not a believer in quantum physics?

      January 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry "inspiration", but your assertion that "Jesus" walked on water is 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 1:39 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Tony Tony Tony You can not use Science if you make fun of what scientist say.....

      Hmm and our most advanced mathematical theories the Rubber band and string theories point to many more dimensions all around us...Who is to say what might be done in those dimensions....After all we are made of very small atoms...with a relatively large area of empty space around each atom.....so why can we not walk through a wall>?....Our atoms would probably have plenty of room to past by the atoms in the wall....Why can we add some liquids together that have a smaller total volume then the two liquids to separately....It is because the atoms blend together and mix.....require less space together..

      You can not see the radio and TV magnetic waves all around you ...yet you listen to the radio...watch TV..

      January 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  10. lol??

    The Europeans and Mideasterners are out in force this AM.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  11. *ray

    AKIRA AKIRA AKIRA. Seek first the kingdom of God and all things will be added unto you.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry "*ray", but "God" and "the kingdom of God" are elements of mythology, therefore nothing can be "added" from "it". 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 1:33 pm |
    • Akira

      @ray: um...what?
      Because I don't want to be the property of men and don't want to be thought of as "unclean" when I have my menses?
      Pfft.
      I don't want that added unto me, thanks.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      @*ray, Akira, my friend, has gone on lunch break,

      do you want to talk about Jesus? Let's talk, I say Jesus was a carpenter like his father and his father, it was his family business, Jesus cough and sneezed, and went to doctor for medicine, do you see any problem with that?

      January 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  12. inspiration

    At least you can say he took some precautions – he did wear diapers!

    January 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  13. Holly

    Why does God have a son and not a daughter? Isn't it racism?

    January 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • inspiration

      Even god can't always control baby's gender! Besides, it was an accident!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • sybaris

      because women are inferior and sinned first. read your bible

      January 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Jim

      Holly,

      Are you saying males and females are different races???

      Is this what passes for intelligence these days? Goodness, Bertrand Russell and Hume would be rolling over in their graves...

      January 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • GAW

      Sybaris was a monstrous Drakaina (she-dragon) which plagued the region of Delphoi in Phokis. She issued forth from a cave on Mount Kriphis each day preying upon men and their flocks until she was dispatched by the hero Eurybaros who threw her down the mountainside.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Holly

      Very sad :-(

      January 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  14. tony

    or SN Dead ;)

    January 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  15. AdmrlAckbar

    Just goes to show you.. they can put any sort of garbage on the belief forums and the evangelicals (both of faith and atheist) will come here and give em 41 pages of comments and Web traffic cash.

    Next Week's Article: Jesus didn't part his hair in the middle.. or did he???

    Evangelical Christian Poster: Spams same random Bible quotes s/he always does.

    Evangelical Atheist Poster: Spams same old Fairytale FSM "I believe in science, yet cannot disprove the aethist null hypothesis" stuff s/he always does.

    CNN: Ohh YEaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! $$$$$$$

    January 6, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • inspiration

      For athiests, these articles are always comedy. It's like Saturday Night Live!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • sybaris

      and yet you read it

      January 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • GAW

      I really think that the CNN belief blog is a training ground for Trolls. (place troll face here)

      January 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • GAW

      @ sybaris No most of the comments here have little or nothing to do with the article. No substantive reviews or criticisms just smart alec remarks from people seeking to annoy others.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • $$$$$$$

      It struck the FUNDIE money bone !

      January 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • inspiration

      Gaw, have some fun. The article is stupid!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • GAW

      @ inspiration Thank you for proving me right. Peace

      January 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  16. inspiration

    You mean he didn't brush his teeth? Take showers often?

    January 6, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • inspiration

      He did wear diapers! Depends!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  17. BRod

    Wait... is this Fox News? What is with all the Christian articles, CNN? Will you let Jews and Muslims post their magical beliefs too? If you are going to publish this tripe, at least be fair and let all the crazies post their varying myths. Meanwhile, I'll be over at MSNBC reading actual news stories.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      BRod,

      Why don't you check in from time to time? There are often articles about Muslims and Jews (and even Hindus and other beliefs). Christian-themed ones are more prevalent because Christians are more prevalent here in the U.S.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  18. Martin

    Think about writing something worth while. After all, this is your job I presume.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      By today's standard, in a country such as the US, he would have been a very very FILTHY man.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • sybaris

      Belief blog + article about Jesus = Relevant

      January 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  19. New Athiest

    No, Jesus wasn't dirty, that was his natural skin color.
    Anyone who puts awhite man with blue eyes on a cross in the fromt of their church is unable to truely accept Jesus as he was.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • inspiration

      The real Jesus was an Arab with a goatee!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Jim

      True. Jesus was an olive-skinned Jew most likely with very tightly curled hair.

      Oddly enough, all sorts of people whether follower of Jesus or not seem to have their own mental image and stick to it.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • New Athiest

      I always thought he was jewish.
      It is a race, and not just a religion.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  20. CNN

    WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS ARTICLE?

    January 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • sybaris

      Belief blog, no?

      January 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • tony

      or No Belief Blog.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Suz

      The point is, simply, that the few people who change human history are simple beasts like the rest of us. Dirty, uncertain, flawed, imperfect (and perfect, in our own way) yet fully aware and still willing to risk all to make our world better. Those few human beasts have been willing to see the world differently and take action. It doesn't take money, super-powers, or magical thinking, it takes courage. It takes compassion. It takes guts and sweat and noise and dirt and blood - sometimes. No religion, philosophy, science, race (or absence of) has the advantage in changing things. It's one human creature with belief and balls (gender not specific). The point of this article is that we are all capable. History proves it. We may not be willing, but we are capable. One imperfect human can change things. Get it yet?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
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