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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. Barry

    As a Jewish man living in that culture at that time, he certainly know the purity laws having to do with ritual washing, sanitation, etc. While there was undoubtedly some society-wide body odor going on, no doubt due to the fact that Speed Stic hadn't been invented yet, I doubt he looked like Pig Pen from the Charlie Brown Specials.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      @Barry, if Jesus was born in a Jewish family, was he a religious or liberal thinker? Why didn't he continue practicing religion of his birth?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      i cant find anything in the torah about bathing?? in fact the topic only comes up before circumcision other then that nothing,.. the new testament says only wash your feet (witch is written after Jesus).. also the culture of the time bathing was rare if not seldom amongst Jews. it was considers pagan and indecent. pagans in fact were extremely hygienic...♫ we love to bath hahahaha,, long, hot and clean, we love to bath ♪ [Marry Poppins/ i love to laugh]

      January 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • Barry

      Mohammad, Jesus DID continue with his parent's religion. As the messiah, foretold throughout the old testament, and preached in their synagogues, Jesus was (and is) the embodiment and fulfillment of his family's faith.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • @mohammed

      That's a good question. He did up till the day he died. Yes, he had issues with Judaism that he wanted to change but he was a Jewish Rabbi the day he died. Jump 4 centuries and the early christians made what is now Christianity.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • @mohammd

      The first christians did all this. There's nothing about Sunday services, Easter, Christmas, communion (all he said is, Do this in remembrance of me) never said everyday at 1200 or any time. Nothing about the pope setting in a gold thrown with pimped out robes. Nothing in that book that sets on order of service. Hell, JC died and there was no book. Modern Christianity is made by man. Jesus was Jewish.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  2. Dasea

    did jesus ever fart in bed with his hot wife?

    January 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      yeah, he even pulled the covers over her head before he did it

      January 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  3. Sam Yaza

    as marry said "dirty boy, dirty, dirty boy!!"

    the virgin birth; a case of young lovers? to hot Arabian teenagers, cat resist each-other (i mean com one ladies carpenters are sexxy) rolling in the hay one gets pregnant...lies about it so she doesn't get stoned to death.

    the Resurrection; a case of necrophi lia? a woman who loved he man so much couldn't live with out "him"
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hcQ7fDtxG4&w=640&h=390]

    the story wrights it self

    January 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  4. joesmith

    good thing this guy is talking about the Christians God Son; if he were taling about some other cornerstone figure, he may already be on someones hit list.too bad peoples can't just be tolerant/respectful of that which some hold to be their essance of strengh..

    January 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • iamwaiting

      jesus might have looked and smelled like other guys in village. but if was teaching anyone to live peacefully and with love then that made him a good guy. it does not matter if you become a good guy by following jesus or not following jesus. but if u r a good guy too then that all.. those who say that by following one particular person u'll get god those ppl. dont know god. it is wrong to say that there were no good ppl. before jesus was born. if you read culture of other religions u ll find so many guys who used to preach about god. so jesus was neither first person nor he was last person on earth to teach about god. end point is u can be a good person urself.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  5. cezar kwasiborski

    You have no respekt for yourself and for Jesus, you just want people's attention just like those in Hollywood. You will pay for those words one day!

    January 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • Na

      No he won't. Time to grow up and lose the imaginary friend.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • JM

      'judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment'

      January 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • iamwaiting

      cezar there are many gods on earth. so u may be making other gods angry by following him. think about it. have you read other religion books? how can you claim all other religions are lie and only this is truth? someone told u and u believed?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • @JM

      Mercy triumphs over judgment' Sadly, JM now a days it's been turned around to 'Judgement triumphs Mercy.' Judgment, judgment, judgment is what most christians do.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
  6. Perri85

    As I recall, a woman washed Jesus' feet with her hair. I presume that was because, like the feet of others, they were dirty.

    It doesn't change who Jesus was to say that He might have been as smelly as the next guy. I learned that it was His humanity that allowed Him to relate to us, and I suppose that means all aspects of His humanity. Plus, wouldn't the disciples have thought it a little weird that He didn't relieve himself from time-to-time?

    January 6, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  7. JM

    Unfortunately the problem with our country is that most of the people who most loudly claim to be Christians more closely resemble the Pharisees in the Bible than Christ.

    There is a reason it's called the gospel (i.e., 'good' news). It wouldn't be 'good' news if we were to believe what the crazy people screeching at us every day claim: that God hates us (the rest of us) and that we're all going to hell w/o any hope of heaven.

    There's a reason that people the rest of us admire/respect believe in God: Obama, E.J. Dionne, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Jim

      Your first statement is right on. This is why people are actually getting pushed away from Christianity not embarrassing it.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • @JM

      Sorry JM not Jim. Move along people nothing to see here.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  8. Bubba

    What does jesus and santa have in common?

    Both fiction told to us by our parents to trick us into being good little boys and girls.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • sybaris

      Also, if you don't believe in Santa well nothing happens. if you don't believe in jebus you burn for eternity in a flaming pit.

      Coercion, the hallmark of religion

      January 6, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • Ryan

      Yeah, thats why the history channel has told us it is a guarantee the this man named Jesus actually lived and walked the earth

      January 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  9. AlaskanEndtimeWarrior

    HA! Loved this article! Very well put. The religious of our day will have a very hard time with what you wrote. Jesus is the perfect of example of a man in right relationship with God. So, keep on writing and saying it right. Blessings!

    January 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
  10. Kanga

    What's the point of this article? It's either a return to the "muscular Christianity" of the early 1900s when Jesus was dubbed too soft and effeminate, or it's taking a, "Gee whiz – don't be intimidated by Jesus the everyman." Why the need to market this guy so much? This borders on offensive. Non-believers will like him better because he pooped? He was probably imagined by Saul, who was trying to create a Jewish version of Buddha.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  11. Buster

    This is a shameful, shameful article!!!!! Jesus is our high priest and he took away the crimson stain of sin and condemnation. We should never waste our time saying he was dirty. That's really shameful and pointless.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Drink the Koolaid much?

      January 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • JJ

      Dude...you really should read past the headline itself. You're a fucking idiot.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • tokenPuppet

      you have a small brain. and are obviously brainwashed

      January 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • AlaskanEndtimeWarrior

      Jesus lived in the middle east in a time where there were no showering facilities at the rest stops along the road. Of course he would not have clean hands or have bathed everyday. He was a real man. He was a buff carpenter with dirt under his fingernails. This is a GREAT article. Oh, one other thing: Jesus had dark skin. Yep – and, he was not some handsome dude. He was an ordinary looking man of no reputation. The most important thing is, He loved you and died for you even before you believed in Him. That's the best part. Jesus is Lord.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      ooooh, the "crimson stain of sin". what makes you think man is "sinful"? because a book told you so?

      January 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Christian7

      sam stone, What book are you reading that tells you that people do not do things that are wrong. Everyday in every direction I see people doing bad things to one another. How can you avoid seeing this?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • Buster

      The article is pointless as Jesus removes sin and filth from our lives., Also, I'm sure Jesus was literally cleaner than most Americans (especially the dog owners).

      January 6, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
  12. MARY HEARD

    I AM SO GLAD HE GOT DIRTY AND SHOWED US THAT NO MATTER WHAT WE DO, WE CAN BE FORGIVEN THROUGH HIM AND WE CAN HAVE ETERNAL LIFE... THANK U JESUS

    January 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      I hope that Jesus grants you peace and the ability to use lower case letters

      January 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • sam stone

      mary: do you seriously desire eternal life? there are undoubtedly people in your life who are not "saved". are you comfortable with the idea of them being tortured forever?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • Dippy

      I'm wondering if Mary has ever heard of lower-case letters.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  13. David Scott

    Jesus only spoke in a strong tone once. That was when the religious leaders turned the house of God into a den of thieves. Jesus was sticking up for the people who were being taken advantage of, but even then, he did it out of love for the people who were sinning. Other than that, I don't recall Jesus speaking in a strong tone. He did always speak the truth. There was no sarcasim when he called the religious leaders snakes...they were. He was only pointing it out. If they had allowed those words to penetrate their hearts, they may have been saved. By the way, just because someone calls you a heretic doesn't mean you are on. Did we as a nation learn anything from all the people who were martyred being labeled a heretic? Those religious leaders that thought little of Him did ask Him to read the scrolls in the temple. Not just anybody was asked to do that. He was held in high regard until He offended people with the truth. As usual, the people who are the worst critics of something or someone, know little facts about what they are criticizing.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      David Scott,

      Do you spiritually believe we labor together with God and God is our husbandry and our bodies are God's buildings?

      January 6, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • paul

      good mr. scott, so you really believe in what Jesus taught in mathew chapter 25. i am happy, now you may change your faith.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  14. TORONTO

    Jesus was a perfect man and a perfect God, and as a perfect man he didt'n smell bad nor had any disease whatsoever because all the body's diseases comes from a body decay and this is the result of the original sin, as a matter of fact, if Jesus have been living lets say forty more years he looked like 30 years all always, eternal youth, you know this? Remember: Jesus was and is a Perfect Man a perfect God.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • tokenPuppet

      you have a small brain. that is simply not possible, do you also believe in witchcraft? my god is an eternal tree whose roots extend all over the earth, breathing oxygen and light and love into all of humanity. bozo

      January 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • Brother Brosn

      ...and you know this because you were there??? Or perhaps you just think this is a nice way to think of your "saviour". There is no question that your Jesus was a perfect man...a perfect god...because he is a perfect fantasy!

      January 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • Darrin Russell

      We appreciate your rose-colored glasses, Toronto, but the fact is, people got dirty, in the days of Jesus, with actual dirt, not dirty in sin, just dirty hands, feet, etc. We get dirty today, again, with dirt. This is not a bad thing, just the facts. The article ended perfect–Jesus came to teach all humility and obedience to God, not to militarily take over people or become the riches turds possible, just humbly follow God and serve him, by serving others.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
  15. Diovana Deleon

    Jafar I'm totally with you and I admire you . I'm Christian and read only the beginning I could not read this article or even look at the picture . Starting today I will find another way for news but CNN . In my life and in my house we praise The Lord . Hope this soul can find peace in the true one day before is too late for him not because God wanted that way but because he is been lied and don't even know it or don't know nothing better .

    January 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Bhurd75

      To bad you didnt read the article, because you missed a beautiful study of Christ our Lord.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow....you read only the beginning....

      when you read the bible, did you stop at genesis?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
  16. paul alexander

    Some one actually PAID you to write this ingenious thesis?

    January 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Ladybug3

      Love this article. The point of Jesus becoming human like us was so humanity could relate to him. He was both fully divine and fully human. I would have loved to meet the real Jesus when he walked this earth.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • Marbart

      Not too amazing is it? Don't most 'writers' put out whatever they can for the 'money'. It's the foundation of their lives.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  17. Rogue351

    Really, who cares if there was a Jesus, wasn't a Jesus. If he was dirty or clean, it does not matter. What matters is how the words are interpreted. Currently the words are interpreted by Pastors, Bishops, or whomever. They pass their interpretations down to the masses. The problem is that most of the ministers, pastors or bishops have either a financial, political or just a control agenda that is merged with their interpretation of the words. This "opinion" is then, in most cases. Excepted as the word of god. People then post further opinions for or against what a person has been taught. This adversarial environment serves no purpose whatsoever because it is all speculation on an interpretation that people are fighting about. So how does this actually serve jesus ? Or if you don't believe in jesus help mankind. The answer is it does not. That is exactly the reason religion should be a personal thing. Not believing i religion should also be personal. The argument will never be won or lost. The only ones that get hurt is when either sides outwardly passes laws based either on their religious beliefs or against religious beliefs. So don't wear your religion on your sleeve and for those that are not religious let people have there own opinion. But, that is how it would work in a perfect world. Since we are far from perfect. All I really have to say is look how many people die or are discriminated against in the word for or against religion. Not just here in the USA but across the globe. Now ask yourself, if there was a god would this be the intent. I say no, which means the religious are failing in there message. Also if you look at this from the atheist perspective, is it right to discriminate, hate and make others lives miserable. No, it servers no purpose for the betterment of man. So why is there an argument in the first place. Egos and Money. And that is just sad as looked at from either perspective. Straighten up people.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  18. Lori

    And I am certain he had the majority of his childhood diseases......

    January 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  19. Bootyfunk

    at the end times, jesus opens his daddy's seven seals (death, war, plague, famine, etc) and kills 2/3 of the people on earth. that's literally billions of people, including babies, the elderly, infirm, physically disabled, mentally challenged, etc. how can anyone call him the prince of peace when he murders so many?
    Matthew 10
    Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • David Scott

      The reason for this text is because He knew some people would accept the truth and some would not. Even within our own house holds. But the bottom line is, if you don't accept the truth, you cannot be allowed into heaven with those of your family that did accept it.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Christian7

      All those passages say is that He is your judge. He is telling you exactly how to avoid the judgement and you ignore the warning. Repent, accept Jesus and be on God's side so you do not need to be condemned but instead are forgiven.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  20. John Anderson

    Pointless. Who cares? Fantasy. No bearing in reality. Does nothing for mankind. Will it help us to find humanity and love within ourselves? No. This has about as much relevance and KK and KW. Let's move on.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Christian7

      You do not know it is fantasy. You are guessing. What if you have guessed wrong? What if hell is real and you deserve to go there? Forever is along time to be in hell.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • Brother Brosn

      One would hope we could move on without the chains of religious stupidity...but alas it would seem we are condemned to a world of fantasy fearing idiots...

      January 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • Christian7

      Brother Brosn, So you are claiming to be smart for choosing hell over paradise? Maybe you do not know it, but that is what you are doing. It does not seem very smart to me.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
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