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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. menoc

    Also, there's a reason why jesus' teenage life has not been included in the Bilble . . . Perhaps because it's plagued with less than glamorous events. We all know what teenagers are like – everyone gets to be stupid at least once.

    It is also conceivable that jesus was a drunk. Think about it. At the time, drinking alcohol (wine) was considered just another beverage. A young jesus probably experimented just like everyone else. So wine, women and parties would not be too big of a stretch in a young jesus' life . . .

    January 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Christian7

      Jesus is God and never sinned.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Jesus might have been more like the pot smoking hippies of the 1960's then most would like to think...

      January 6, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
  2. dennis

    And to think these clowns are profs at colleges! No wonder the country is degrading itself into garbage!

    January 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  3. Christian7

    Any dirt that was on Jesus' feet, was created by Him. Jesus is God.

    John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Gitsome

      And Santa Claus is the bringer of all gifts, all gifts for Christmas. That was written, said, therefore it is.
      Amen

      January 6, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  4. irina quintero

    Wow you are really trying to make it big with this article??? I feel bad for you dude!!! seek God and repent.. who care if Jesus was clean or dirty why don't you look and read the bible where it says that he die for your sin. And perhaps that way you can come back and write about his eternal love instead.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
  5. Amy

    You're right, Bill. However, on the homepage, it was listed under the "Featured" section right at the top. Seems that the opinions should be shown as such, and shouldn't overshadow actual news...

    January 6, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  6. Reality

    Jesus is a Prophet by the way...not God.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • OpposingView

      Say who? The scriptures says Jesus Christ was the direct manifestation of the eternal God in the flesh...

      1 Timothy 3:16 – And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh (Jesus), justified in the Spirit (Jesus), seen of angels (Jesus), preached unto the Gentiles (Jesus), believed on in the world (Jesus), received up into glory (Jesus)...

      January 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • Christian7

      Jesus is God.
      "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."
      "Before Abraham, I am"
      "The word was God, And the Word became flesh."

      January 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • Matt

      He is both God and Prophet. As He himself said "No one will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but through me."

      January 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  7. jryan

    All I can say is: Thank god I am an atheist.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • Amy

      :)

      January 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • OpposingView

      You thank God you're going to hell? That's a strange thing to say...

      January 6, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • Canderson

      Atheists won't necessarily go to hell, neither will Buddhists, Taoists, Shinto, or agnostics. Hell doesn't exists except in the fear of those who live with a guilty conscience. As long as you hate others, condemn others, are prejudice against other religions, gay people, or intolerant of anyone different than you are, you are a fearful and bigoted worm. That can be changed but only if you believe!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  8. Disgusted

    CNN allows an article attacking Jesus but will not do likewise for insults or cartoons about Allah -- Disgusting

    CNN ought to lose its Internet rights for this blasphemy

    January 6, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • asuanmcmahon

      This is hardly an attack. Actually I find the article a breath of fresh air...it would be hard to follow a God that cannot relate to humanity, otherwise we're just pets.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • David

      And why is the article disrespectful? Just because it states the obvious reality for a guy 2000 years ago. Get off your high horse...

      January 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • David

      By the way, how exactly do you lose your "Internet rights?"

      January 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • Canderson

      "Attacking Jesus"? Are you nuts? This article is long overdue and portrays Jesus as a real MAN who was the son of God. That's why he came to earth.... or don't you read your Biblle?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  9. TommyBoyBeiber

    Jesus was just another dirty stinky bottom-feeding trash-bag Jew. To this day people are still getting screwed, in his name, especially and literally the altar-boys. He got what he deserved for the blasphemy and diseases he spread to his neighbors.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Canderson

      He was an amazing man... far more than you will ever hope to be. It's true that many have used His name for hatred, but He had nothing to do with that. It's those who were bigoted, filled with intolerance and prejudice that are to blame... not unlike you.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
  10. AGuy

    sigh... you sir truly need to read the Gospel! I do not think any Christian cares about the physical cleanliness of Jesus; of course he would have experienced all of the same attributes as any of us; his is God in the "Flesh"! I would really like for you to study the bible, put the time in to learn, to embrace who Jesus is – then come back with an article that has merit – I trust once you learn who Jesus is you will see things quite differently. This article is trash journalism , designed to get hits but useless content. I'll pray for you.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Alessandra Small

      Great feedback AGuy. Trash journalism to stir up the non-believers! Everyone who has doubts need to read the Bible for themselves before they judge a lick of what is in it!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  11. menoc

    . . . In fact, he probably didn't shower very often for the lack of indoor pluming , never brushed his teeth so his teeth and breath were most of the time kind of foul. Think of the smelly homeless person down the street and that's probably what Jesus looked and smelled like . . .

    January 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  12. chris

    When You Are The Resolute Son Of God You Are Allowed A Few Dirt Spots On Your Kilt. Sorry Johnnie

    January 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  13. kris

    Whoa, whoa, whoa....
    You mean to tell me that Jesus wasn't a middle aged,blue-eyed, blond-haired white guy, who coincidentally was one of the only white dudes in the Middle East. Say it ain't so....

    January 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  14. Zobbit

    LOL This article in a nutshell: Jesus was a dirty hobo.

    Great job CNN.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
  15. IrishInNJ

    This is sarcastic right? You understand there was no man called Jesus wandering around 2000 years ago...scores of historians and record keepers of the time make no mention of him. There was no Jesus, there is no god. He's a character in a poorly written book.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • John A

      What a lie. One day there will be no IrishInNJ

      January 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • sth32

      There was a man called Jesus who lived between ~0 and ~33 AD. This is an indisputable fact. You can choose whether you want to believe in him, but he did exist.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Bill

      Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. (Jesus comes from the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek and then English.) Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death. The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters—including a descendent of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2).

      January 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • AGuy

      He is throughout the dead sea scrolls and other literature of the day – learn to read or try using other sources

      January 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • Saraswati

      There probably was someone...there wee tons of prophets at the time. He just wasn't significant enough to get a mention. The minor prophet with the best PR team won out.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Matt

      That is completely untrue. Romans registered Jews frequently for taxation purposes. In such censuses was a historical person named Yeshua referred to as a Nazarene. Whether you believe he is God or not, that much is historical fact.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • BetterDeadThanFed

      Actually, there are multiple secular (not just Biblical) accounts of a man named Jesus having the demographics of the one spoken of in the Bible. This is just one of many references/accounts:

      http://beginningandend.com/jesus-exist-historical-evidence-jesus-christ/

      Even non-Christians have admitted that after reading evidence that Jesus did exist. The difference is that some believe He is the son of God who died on the cross and rose again. And some don't believe this. His existence is questioned by only a small community.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  16. Amy

    It's disturbing to me that this article was posted by CNN. It points out Jesus's defection, yes, but in the end it still identifies him as God. In this world where we have many faiths and many interpretations of God, why is a national news outlet allowing this one version of God to be presented as "news"? And from a sweet, fresh-faced, white male, no less!

    This doesn't belong on CNN. It belongs in a church newsletter.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Bill

      This isn't posted as news, it's posted as an opinion on the "Faith" section of CNN.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • AGuy

      Amy – it's not news – it is trash journalism – designed to get reader hit's

      January 6, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Saraswati

      It's a belief "Blog" not a news item. There's also a section here called "Distractions" that posts kitten pictures and a place to play video games.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • Art

      Jeeszus, Amy, work harder to follow the bouncing ball. This op-ed piece was posted in CNN's "Belief Blog". That's a huge hint as to why there's nothing "disturbing" about its content: Blogs are supposed to be full of opinion-based essays. And so, predictably, this is an op-ed by a religious person, about his personal religious beliefs... There, Amy, that wasn't so hard, right? Now, do you also need help understanding why there are also several advertisements on each CNN page, even though you thought CNN was all about national news?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • BetterDeadThanFed

      Note that most people of the U.S. are of Christian faith. And there's little rebuttal against the knowledge/fact that the founding fathers of this country based laws on Judeo-Christian values. That said, "religious" write-ups are oftentimes relevant.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  17. Amy

    It's disturbing to me that this article was posted by CNN. It points out Jesus's defection, yes, but in the end it still identifies him as God. In this world where we have many faiths and many interpretations of God, why is a national news outlet allowing this one version of God to be presented as "news"? This doesn't belong on CNN. It belongs in a church newsletter.

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

      Amy, This. Really. Isn't. Hard. Try a bit harder to follow the reasoning, OK? This op-ed piece was posted in CNN's "Belief Blog". That's a huge hint as to why there's nothing "disturbing" about its content: Blogs are *supposed* to be full of opinion-based essays. Like an op-ed by a religious person, about his personal religious beliefs... Now, do you need help understanding why there are also several advertisements on each CNN page, even though you thought CNN was all about national news?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • yoanimal

      Quit trolling, take a time out and not hate for five minutes.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  18. Mike

    Muhammad was ten times dirtier than we think.

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

      Depends how dirty you thought he was. But a professor in Pakistan who pointed this out a few years ago landed in jail...so you might want to watch yourself. :)

      January 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • dreamer96

      And what about what Lott and his two sons Ammon and Moab....

      January 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Sen

      What does Muhammad has to do with this article? :)

      January 6, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  19. Dasea

    my take: Jesus walked around with a hello kitty shirt , pink short shorts and a polish sausage taped to his leg.

    since we don't need hard evidence

    It is impossible to properly cite your sources when you use invisible voices whilst dehydrated in the sun for your fact booking.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Jesus was my brother in law?

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

      Dasea, funny. You and Jill (of the elephant painting Mozart thing) should get together.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  20. ATHEIST ROX

    Lol, religion.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:57 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.