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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. TR2986

    I think this article is spot on. It illuminates how awesome he is. God could have come down as a king or dictator. Instead he chose to walk in the shoes of a common person and to die a humiliating death. Supremely humble and loving to the end. How can you not love everything about this man?

    January 6, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Your Belief is not necessarily Truth.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • T-Roy

      If he was going to come down as a King and rule the Jews and the world. Why didn't he? Where did he go?

      Why didn't be become King?

      January 6, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • TR2986

      He is a King in the hearts and minds of Billions of people. An earthly king would have been long-dead and long-forgotten a long time ago. Instead he came as a common man and has shaped every facet of our world today. He is the most important historical person to have ever lived.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • T-Roy

      Sorry but why would expect people to worship him on bad evidence? If he were my King and wanted me to submit and serve him, shouldn't he do something in exchange for me worshiping him and submitting to him?

      I mean, what kind of fool would throw his entire life away, submitting and worshiping someone who does not exist and does not show himself and wants me to believe in evidence 2000 years old? You would have to be seriously deluded...

      January 6, 2013 at 8:07 am |
  2. NwaGod

    hey canal folks, you are doing the bidden of your father the devil. u can't destroy christanity

    January 6, 2013 at 7:50 am |
  3. alec

    u piece of s***. i hope u go to hell over this article.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • FloydZepp

      In Jesus Name you hate, Amen.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • George

      Like

      January 6, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • chicadow

      Wow, I'm not sure if your comment was meant in sarcasm, but i can tell that many of the hateful, angry comments below are not. I am always amazed at people who call themselves Christian becoming so full of spite at any mention of God that doesn't fit with their personal beliefs. If you have accepted God (as defined by any religion) as you're Saviour, I'm happy for you. I haven't, and if it buys me a ticket to hell, I'll deal with it, because i know in my life on earth, even without any god in my life, i have certainly lived in a more loving and Christian way than some of you.

      Living in the very Christian south, and seeing people act the way I'm talking about, my wife and i always joke that we want to wear undershirts that say "Would Jesus be cool with that?". Every time somebody speeds up to keep you from walking across the street in front of their car or makes a racist comment in the grocery store, we would lift up our shirts and show them the undershirts. People probably wouldn't get it but we would enjoy "spreading the word of God." Have a blessed day, y'all!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • John A

      I choose being at peace, then being bitter and miserable.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
  4. rochdoc

    Your dirty comments on one of the greatest persons in history should be looked upon with contempt. Atleast people are still talking about Jesus – even about how many times he went to bathroom and the kids are paying with their money so you can talk junk. I wonder if they will ever care if you talked about your mother's menstrual cycle and how many times she changed tampons, or how often she had a break out of herpes. It will be called mundane

    January 6, 2013 at 7:49 am |
  5. simon

    David, the God of the Universe knows how to defend Himself. I'm only a pebble as compare to God's glory. I can only defend Faith in hearts. This is an attack against Christian faith.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:49 am |
  6. Scott

    Will you people stop??? On both sides.
    The author of the article is pointing out that Jesus had a human body and that body functioned, when he was nailed to the cross he bled, why should his body not react in other normal ways, he ate and drank thus had to eliminate waste. He is also pointing out that in being a God who understands how we live we can connect to him in a way we cant with other gods.

    Those of you calling Christians stupid for their beliefs are wrong too, They have faith and that is a good thing. I'm sure you all believe things that others think you are idiots for believing but probably they don't walk around throwing it in your face but you feel you can attack Christians mostly because you think being a Christian means they are pigeonholed with certain (mostly political) beliefs which you don't agree with.

    Many Christians are NOT anti gay, anti women, bigoted right wingers so thinking they all are shows your close-mindedness which is EXACTLY what you accuse Christians of We have freedom of religion in this country so Christians are free to believe what they want, you are free too disagree but until we stop attacking each other we will never move forward in this country.
    Both sides need to try opening their minds and accepting rather than attacking.

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

      He was the Son of God – not God
      big difference
      even if he didn't exist then – he exists now ...
      he exists – whether he existed or not

      January 6, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  7. nyc

    Well it's 2013, so not too early to figure this out. More should be written about the obvious.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  8. davidlv67

    anything to sell there hate that one must believe in Christ to be forgiven of sin

    January 6, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • John A

      There is a price for each individuals mistakes. If you have no sin, then you don't need Jesus. You also don't have an excuse not to accept.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
  9. JAL

    So should we liken Jesus bowel movements to symbolism? Firing this author will suffice.

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

      Why not? You already worship every other bodily fluid that he issued forth. Heck, you drink his symbolic blood in Church.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  10. mfalls

    I recognize some of Professor Moore's statements about events in Jesus's life from my limited knowledge of the bible; but found myself wondering what the source material is for some of his statements. Anybody able/willing to inform me?

    January 6, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • H4abworld

      My material states cleanliness is next to godliness.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:52 am |
  11. JomoDaMusicMan

    So u're saying Jesus actually used the bathroom outside instead going to the BP or Shell Service Station (GEE, WHAT GREAT UP TO DATE NEWS). And he actually chastised the Pharisees with harsh words plus chose radical men to follow him. But u didn't tell them that if Jesus was so Non-Violent why was his disciples ARMED, NOT ONLY WITH THE WORD BUT with the Glocks of his time (SWORDS).

    January 6, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  12. chijioke

    Please acept him as ur lord and personal saviour

    January 6, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • JWT

      Absolutely not.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • sam stone

      free people do not need saviors. only slaves do

      January 6, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Why? Because if other people won't believe like you, your faith is too weak to keep Evangelicalism alive?

      January 6, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Christian7

      sam stone, Every sin will be punished.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • JWT

      The only person that can be punished by your god is you.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • John A

      It’s very sad but people will commit spiritual suicide because of their own pride and arrogance. At the end, they only hurt & trick themselves.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  13. lancet98

    Kind of a stupid article. Assumes that people in the middle ast were dirty and smelly and poopy 2000 years ago, for one thing. The idea that only people who live like us can be clean and relatively healthy and runs-free, is absurd. In fact, in living in the 3rd world, I can say it's quite possible to be fairly clean and healthy in that environment. In that environment clothes and utensils were scrubbed so often they wore out rather quickly. A very small amount of water can keep someone clean, and in a lot of those 3rd world countries people are actually VERY clean and spend a lot of time cleaning themselves, their clothes and their homes. Ever seen anyone sweep a dirt floor? Oh yes they do. In many 3rd world countries women spend ALL their time, cleaning their dirt floor homes, clothing, and cooking. All day, every day. A lot of those Old Testament rules about cleanliness probably were chiefly to prevent disease, and smelliness and body odor are largely a matter of diet – since Jesus was not wildly wealthy, I'd assume his diet didn't include a lot of meat or protein – a source of much body odor. So while a lot of people in the ancient days probably weren't clean while working, it's not really a given that they were constantly poopy, smelly and dirty, either.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • David Eli

      Agreed, however He was most assuredly dirty with the manner in which he walked and slept. His focus was not outward cleanness but purity or heart and showing others love.

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

      If you had any comon sense, you would already know Jesus and his disciples were probably filthy& stank because they spend yrs on the road or n the wilderness and didn't come across a pond everyday to bathe or for someone to wash his feet.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • The Fladaboscan

      I disagree. I think this article rocks. People do have this image of Jesus with a European face in a clean robe. He probably looked more like Osama bin Laden than Mitt Romney. And he probably did have diarrhea, along with warts, hangnails, bunions, flatulance and everything else that humans have. Given the warm climate and primitive sanitary conditions he probably had worse digestive problems than most of us have today. I believe deep down in my heart that Jesus, being human, probably peed on at least one of his parents as a baby. Is that disrespectful? I don't think so. How can you love him if he's not human?

      January 6, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • monstersdoexist

      Lance, have you ever been to the middle east and spent the day walking a desert road? Think about it.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  14. Christian7

    The Author is wrong:
    "He was the God who became dirty so that the world’s souls might be made clean."

    A believer does not use the past tense. Jesus is God. It is the most important concept.

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

      "Jesus is God" is a fairly recent misinterpretation by Modern American Evangelicalism. (Notice I don't call it Christianity – they worship Mammon in MegaChurch through Prosperity Gospel now, that is when they aren't hating everyone because they won't all support their right wing politics)

      January 6, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Christian7

      FloydZepp, you are wrong.

      “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

      John 8:58 is another example. Jesus declared, "I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."

      January 6, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Christian7

      Jesus is God:
      John 1:1 says that “the Word was God.” John 1:14 says that “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”

      January 6, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  15. mom

    As usual, if we happen to be followers of Jesus Christ, we are to take this kind of writing lying down. But woe to anyone who would write a comparable article about Mohammed! CNN just continues its same old hypocrisy and idiocy. There are PLENTY of outstanding authors who do much better work regarding Christian matters, but CNN just can't seem to find any, can they? No. it has to be somebody who will besmirch Jesus Christ if at all possible.Folks, right there in the New Testament, it shows plainly time after time that people were completely amazed at the words and deeds of Jesus Christ in a way unparalleled up to that time period, and even now, He remains unequaled in the excellence of his speech and character, and He will remain unparalleled in His excellence. So, for those of you delighted to think Jesus is just another guy, you just stick with that at this point, ok? Go live your foolish, dark lives. Jesus Christ is the King of Kings, and LORD of Lords, and He will judge all people. You have a great big awakening coming, whether you believe it or not. Your disbelief is not going to change that.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • motorfirebox

      Hypersensitive much? This article doesn't say anything bad about Jesus.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Mara

      Hi Mom – the potty talk made me wince, but realized it was foolishness spewed carelessly. The larger point was the humanity of Christ which is huge. Lets be not so high and mighty when sharing the Good News!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:24 am |
  16. Daniel

    Great article, and hopefully what everyone who understands the physical laws of nature already knows. If you've reached the age of 40 you should realize that Jesus was a man, a great man, a man to be revered for teaching us about good and evil, compassion, a man to be respected and admired, as a great human being who taught us all something useful. As we decipher the physical world exponentially, theologians may want to separate god from Jesus before science does it for you.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Christian7

      Jesus was not just a great teacher. Jesus is God.

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

      How about we give some thought to the fact that, despite all of his alleged miracles, no one, not one living soul, thought to commit to writing any accounts of those events during Jesus' lifetime. In fact, no one wrote anything about Jesus until several decades later, and most of what was written in the gospels wasn't written for at least a couple of centuries. In short, the gospels are all "I heard it from somebody who heard it, from somebody else who heard it, from somebody else who said they were there."

      We all learned in elementary school how that works ... and just how reliable that kind of information transmittal really is.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • NooYawkah

      If He is not the Son of God, then He would be a liar. How many of your teachers would you consider to be "great" if you found out they were liars? He is either God or He is a fraud. And if He was a fraud then He is NOT a great teacher.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  17. simon

    Just to let everyone knows Johnnie Moore is a known Jew who travels to Jerusalem regularly.

    This is obviously a Jewish attack against Christianity, against Jesus Christ, whom we love deeply and willing to defend Him with all our souls and blood.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • David Eli

      Although this provides insight into what the Jewish leaders may have thought at the time, you are out of bounds with your accusation. Why don't you either say something intelligent, debate your viewpoint, or go explore what you just said because you ought to be ashamed.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • sam stone

      what a drama queen

      January 6, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • David Eli

      Oh, and another thing: since when does the God of the universe who you claim to love need you to protect Him? He calls you to be like Him in His compassion.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • Al

      so he was a dirty jew ?

      January 6, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • simon

      There is nothing to debate with an ignorant who has zero knowledge about Jesus.

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

      Simon what do you really know about people back then.. I know they were not very clean.. and the stories in the bible don't sound very convincing and to tell you the truth they are probably just that stories based not on reality

      January 6, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • David Eli

      Good debate Simon, maybe we should resort to "your mom" jokes next?

      January 6, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • motorfirebox

      An "attack"? He doesn't say anything negative about Jesus! What a racist idiot.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Mike Fuller

      A Jewish attack against Christianity is unlikely, you could be a dirty Jew to others and be accepted!

      January 6, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • justin

      Johnnie Moore is current Vice President of Liberty University (Fallwell's old hangout)...my guess is he's not Jewish.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • monstersdoexist

      Simon (a good Jewish name), do your homework...Christians ARE Jews. We do not follow the Jewish religion, but where do you think Christianity was derived. Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • simon

      motor, re-read the article.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • sam stone

      simon: your "knowledge" is based on translated, edited iron age hearsay. get over yourself

      January 6, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • roguewave

      You know Jesus was jewish as well, right?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  18. lilyq

    I don't know why the author thinks this is earth shattering for Christians? Maybe because at one time he himself thought of Christ this way.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • Bobpitt

      The notion that Jesus was the poster boy of clean is ridicules, not long ago people lucked sanitation, churches and religious fanatics want to portrait an image that is not real, or as real as their arguments.

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

      The comments on this very page make it pretty clear that this is something many Christians that read CNN have no yet realized.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
  19. David Eli

    Although I don't see that as a sincere look into Christ, I do see it as a testimony of God's love for us. His grace was such that the high king endured such lowliness for the sake of those that want to find him. I think focusing on whether or not he had to go to the bathroom is irrelevant. What is relevant is what he came and DID. It is paradoxical, but God calls us to be the same. To show love people who are hurting and truth to those with calloused hearts. I like this perspective though because it not only gives insight into what the religious scholars of the day were probably thinking when He came, but it serves as a testimony to God's great compassion for people! Shouldn't we do the same?

    January 6, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • Mara

      Well said. A compassionate revolutionary calling those who yearn for Him. Thankful he DOES know the plight of us humans shackled by our personal sin, and longing for a new earth free of its effects. Thanks be to God who will make all things new. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Grey Atlanta

      David, way to go! Abandon your beautiful background and religion for the simple-mindedness of Christianity just to find out that your new fellow co-religionists hate your people and your background. I hope you found what you were looking for. Enjoy your pagan friends.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  20. Thomas

    This is a fine sermon, but why is it on CNN's website?

    January 6, 2013 at 7:38 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.