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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. ISay Says

    Johnnie: You make it sound like you were actually THERE but that's impossible, right? Might I suggest something like: It is said that ... ... ... .

    January 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  2. Christina atteberry

    For all these reasons I truly Love Jesus .I have always known that Jesus was a Man of the every day people . Not the lavish rich or well off person that the religious Right try to recreate in their Own image .

    January 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Christina atteberry,

      The religiously convicted are so accused for being and of becoming in their stained ways.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  3. yerp

    god made durt so durt don't hurt

    January 6, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  4. inspiration

    The real face of Jesus:

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/forensics/1282186

    January 6, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • inspiration

      He looks like he's been dead for three days!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  5. Religions are fairytales.

    Some heavy reading for those with light heads. Your fables are blinding you to the truth of humanity and need to cease. http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm Dispute if you wish, but your belief in the centuries old zombie deity is based on hearsay and fables. There is no factual proof that this zombie bas-tard ever existed and your blind following of "it" is based on what you have been taught. Stop being a fool, there are no gods!

    January 6, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Correctlycenter

      Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other dictators throughout modern world history outlawed the LORD God Almighty too! And if I remember, it didn't turn out too well for the millions of innocent people they butchered in their countries. did it? Humanism can never replace the LORD God Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth...

      January 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Correctlycenter", but the "LORD God Almighty" is an element of mythology. Furthermore, "Correctlycenter" your generalized assertions regarding communist regimes do not correlate to any particular belief system. For instance, if one argued that Mao killed in the name of naturalism or atheism, one could just as easily argue that Hitler killed in the name of Christianity. 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 3:06 pm |
  6. ome

    THE GREATEST TRICK THE DEVIL DID IS MAKE THE WORLD BELIEVE HE DOSEN'T EXIST.....

    January 6, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • hee hee

      Oh no! The boogeyman!

      Why do the use of the word "devil" and the use of caps lock go together?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      The greatest trick religion did is to make the world believe he did exist.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      This 'world' is not of God's kingdom domains! Christ came here as being but an Ambassador just the same ways all other religious orientated beings came to this world's ongoing generations.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  7. OK

    wow 45 pages CNN struck Gold on this one. By the way g-od didn't make the gold.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  8. Aaron the Ogre

    I love this article. The biggest problem is many people deny their own mothers defecate, much less The Son of God. I believe Jesus lived as the rest of humanity did then, in neighborhoods much like you see in the third world where sewage runs in the center of the street. Christ as a normal man who lived like those around him is the ideal. The idea that he was constantly robed in white and practically floated about an inch above the ground is ludicrous. Jesus was a normal man and that is fantastic.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  9. lionlylamb

    Science is the seekers of God's kingdom domains. They search the high heavens and the very depths of living chasms within cellular cosmologies for Godly kingdoms! I'll put my money upon biological sciences findings as to the real whereabouts of God's kingdom domains being upon life's insides as proclaimed within the Gospels.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • psych ward staff

      Uh oh, someone threw up their word salad again – clean up on page 46 – pronto!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  10. Helena

    sounds like charlie manson!

    the writer forgot to mention that jesus portrayed as a blond hair blue eyed white guy is pretty flawed. he probably had curly black hair – brown eyes – darker sun scorched skin and bad teeth!

    January 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Vic

      Yep you are correct, not to mention probably no taller than 5 feet tall and swarthy as most people in that age were no more than 5' tall for men!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • inspiration

      The real face of Jesus:

      http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/forensics/1282186

      January 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • inspiration

      Just another ugly Arab!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  11. Sean

    THIS IS NOT NEWS
    THIS IS NOT NEWS
    THIS IS NOT NEWS

    January 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • OTOH

      Sean,

      THIS IS AN OPINION BLOG
      THIS IS AN OPINION BLOG
      THIS IS AN OPINION BLOG

      January 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Sean

      Yes, but i dont think it has a place on cnn's main page– with all the REAL news.

      File it in opinions/editorial, not with REAL news.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Sean

      Allow me to correct myself– it most certainly does belong on the main page right next to an article debating Nas as the greatest MC ever.

      Clearly these things matter in today's America

      January 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • OTOH

      Sean,

      I hear ya', but there is no extra charge for clicking the link, reading for 10 seconds or less, and moving along if it doesn't interest you...

      January 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Bill Richardson

      CNN IS NOT A REAL NEWS OUTLET
      CNN IS NOT A REAL NEWS OUTLET
      CNN IS NOT A REAL NEWS OUTLET

      January 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Bet

      It IS filed under the opinion section, you dolt.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Sean

      Yes, it most certainly is under opinion/blogs. Excellent research.

      I agree with one of the above posters– this really isn't a real news outlet.

      Dolt? Ouch. I've really only heard that once or twice in life–very nice vocabulary.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  12. No suprise

    I am a Catholic and of course Christ was as dirty as anyone back then. That is no suprise at all. I think non-believers think that believers believe that we think Christ existed as some shiney angel floating across earth, ha ha not so. We simply have that image to represent his holiness and its a nice picture. Sort of like you enhance your favorite picture of your beloved parents who passed away and want to remember them at their best. The whole lure of Christ is that he is one of us, lived among us, and suffered from the same issues we all did such as farts, upset stomach, cancer, blisters, and so on. He was human after all not some ghostly floating thingy.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • inspiration

      ...and how would you know that? You were his drinking buddy?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No: Do you know the best way to Atheism? Read the buybull Point being that most of us were firm believers also but like our childhood was left behind and with it Santa, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny...so too, we left behind your imaginary friend (aka the christian god).

      January 6, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I think this was written by a believer for other believers. There's a lot of diversity withing Christianity and while it's rarely an official position to believe Jesus was clean and perfect, a lot of Christians do seem to slip into that way of thinking. I imagine this guy was just trying to shake those folks back into something closer to reality.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Sawmills

      @Truthprevails: That is an ignorant thing to say

      January 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Actually no surprise there are plenty of believers posting here that are calling this article heretical and anti Christian so yes, there are plenty that seem to think he was some kind of spotless being

      January 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Sawmills: Why is that ignorant?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  13. Paul Coneff

    After 7,000+ hours of counseling, teaching and training in churches, I can say that the "Dirty Jesus' who took on flesh, took on the fullness of humanity as our Suffering Messiah (Luke 9:22; 24:24-26, 44-46; Heb. 4:14-18), is a critically important part of the plan of salvation. Jesus Himself said that He MUST suffer, die and rise again, as a human being. So the "Dirty God" article is highlighting the power of personal identification with Christ... a Christ who could get sick (even when we eat healthy food we can get sick), who could get tired, who would need a drink of water and even as a Samaritan woman living in sin for a drink of water (John 4), before He offered her living water. He was a Jesus who grieved the loss of His cousin John to a brutal, senseless murder by Herod so He could identify with all those who have lost loved ones to brutal, senseless murders like those in Newton, Connecticut or Aurora, Colorado etc. This is a "Rubber-Meets-the-Road" Jesus we can all relate to and I appreciate Johnnie's focus on this important reality because I rarely see it emphasized. More often than not, as John Eldredge says, we have Jesus who is more like Mr. Rogers with a beard (a nice guy, but not someone who can help us in the here and now with all the challenges of life).

    January 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  14. truthseeker

    Jesus was not GOD. He was the son of God. The teaching that he was God is a man-made teaching and not in the Bible.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • dreamer96

      And Jesus said over and over his Kingdom was in the Next World....

      January 6, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "truthseeker", but "God" is an element of mythology, therefore, if Jesus existed, he could not be the son of "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 2:44 pm |
    • Sawmills

      Not so true! You haven't done enough studying. It says in the Bible that The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were one being!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • J

      Apparently, you've never read the gospel of John. The author was quite clear that Christ claimed to be God (see the two excerpts below), addressing the Jewish community who were the least likely in that day to accept the incarnation - that God did in fact take on flesh and become man.

      "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)

      "This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God." (John 5:18)

      January 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      " I and the Father are one."

      January 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Dean

      There is nothing like "Son Of God"....Son of God is nothing but God himself. There is only one God 'Jesus '
      Bible is a spiritual book with spirtual meaning. If you derive common textual meanings from the bible then Bible makes no sense. Adam and eve had two sons...One died..other lived...who did he Cane have sons from ????how do we have so many people today if adam and eve had two sons.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Sid

      At John 3:14 we are told that Jesus would be lifted up just as the Copper Serpent, which was God's provision for salvation of those Israelites in the wilderness to continue living after having been bitten by serpents of that wilderness. (Numbers 21:4-9) Nearly 800 (?) years later the "copper serpent idol" was destroyed by King Hezekiah as an object of false worship. (2 Kings 18:4) It is not surprising that in planting weeds among the wheat Satan was up to his old tricks. Satan considers any worship deflected from the True God as worship going to himself. Now is the time for worshippers of Jesus to repent and become followers of Jesus in worshipping his God and Father.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  15. Dave

    Jesus Christ: Fully God, and fully man. A Jew from the Middle East living in poverty. And yes, as a man, completely without sin. I have never doubted that his body would be physically dirty, just like yours and mine. What I really dislike are the renderings that show Christ as a blond, blue-eyed white guy walking on Earth and always physically clean... You see this bogus depiction far too often. Thanks be to God that His only son became my sin and paid for it with His separation from the Father and by His death. In addition, I get His perfect record ascribed to me. The beautiful double cure! I long for Christ's Second coming into this dark and sinful world.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Saraswati

      It seems a bit unfair to me to dislike people for a mistaken image. Those pictures developed long before photography and at a time when few, including artists, travelled beyond their own city's walls. The early pictures were what they knew, and from there an historical tradition developed. It's just like any other piece of misinformation that is passed down.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Dave" but "God", "Christ", "his only Son" and "Second coming" are all 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 2:46 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Hal9001: I hope you realize that your own assertions represent your beliefs and are unfounded themselves.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  16. Timothy Rigney

    Here's another "shocker," Jesus was rich. It's a historical fact whether people like it or not; there's overwhelming evidence of it. Poor people didn't go to cities far away to pay taxes, and they most-certainly didn't have "fragrant oils," etc. to be messing around with.
    Something else to consider that imo has never been given its proper due – as a rich person, he of course could read – poor people didn't – 0% of them, I bet. It's a Biblical Fact that Jesus could read and yet – he never wrote *anything.* Something to chew on. It seems it must have been intentional. *Why* would he have chosen not to write? Think about it.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • inspiration

      Maybe the Biblical "facts" are wrong?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Saraswati

      He was probably moderately well off until he became a wanderer, but the money would have run out fast. And yes, assuming we have a single historical figure, he could probably read. IF he or the other prophets at the time did write things down they may have been easily lost over time. Or he may just not have been a very creative fellow...not everyone can write.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  17. inspiration

    One thing is for sure – you can always trust a man in diapers! So now we have the dirt on Jesus!

    January 6, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • inspiration

      Anybody wants to know where I go sh...?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  18. independentlyowned

    I like the way he portrays Jesus as a truly human person, especially one that fits into the historical context of the time. However, his descriptions make me wonder why people followed him even more. If there was some dirty, homeless guy who affiliated only with other low lives and degenerates, whose closest comrades were those who betrayed the government, would anyone with half a brain take him seriously as a savior?? I understand times change, but even a preacher who lives a relatively humble lifestyle nowadays isn't a prophet.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • inspiration

      The old homeless guy should have come to San Francisco. They take care of the homeless here!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I don't think he was any dirtier than most of the people at the time; it was just a fact of life that all but the very wealthy were dirty by today's standards. At the time people were waiting for a prophet and many claimed to be that prophet and had followings. The prophet was not expected to be wealthy, and again, few at the time had more than the bare essentials of life. In many cultures the religious sages have been poor – it was virtually a requirement among seekers of knowledge in south asia.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Timothy Rigney

      Because all people are 100% equal in the eyes of God and their earthly situation, which is completely random, is 100.000000000% irrelevant. It's one of His core teachings. In fact, from that perspective, I'm literally not sure what you mean when you imply that there were any differences at all, even "microscopically undetectable" ones, between those He was with and those you suggest He might have been with instead. They were exactly the same, in terms of abilities, status, material wealth, importance, wisdom, intelligence, status, cleanliness, sinlessness or any other criteria one can name.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Timothy Rigney

      (and that message and sincere, demonstrated belief must have been compelling to those who followed him.)

      January 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  19. a famous brony

    i thought this was already pretty well established... like, even biblically...

    January 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • inspiration

      Are you taking about Jesus' bowl habits again?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • antonshugar

      I agree, it's weird that this is on a news website. That being said, I'm glad this gets out the Gospel of Christ to people who normally hear false Gospels on this website. I have been disappointed to see how CNN has evolved into more subjective commentary than actual news reporting as of late, I thought CNN was the last holdout for actual news.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  20. Bubbaray

    Per religioustolerance.com 32 percent of the world's population are Christian, and that number is dropping. Also 75 percent of Americans subscribe to a form of Christianity, however if the born again rule is used that number drops to approximately 30 percent and these numbers are dropping. Per the same data source there are approximately 35,000 different Christian sects world wide and 1,000 Christian sects in the United States. From this sliver of data I feel that 1) there is no such thing as singular Christianity, it is a religion of self guided interpretations and 2) as a populist region it is losing followers. My humble suggestion is instead of debating the bowel habits of Jesus everyone's time, including mine, would be best spent applying tolerance and understanding.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • inspiration

      Good. Amazing how stupid people are!

      January 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Sean

      Well put.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Sid

      A prerequisite for understanding is accurate knowledge.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
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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.