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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. Faisal

    The writer reflected his own filthy thoughts and personality in his writings. Messengers of God are indeed role models of humanity, they not only purify ones inner self but give the same importance to outer self as well. And they always present themselves as an example. It is sad to see that these so called intellectuals ridicule the most noble personalities and discuss them for the sake of fun. Jesus peace be upon him was one of the most clean, handsome, pure and beautiful both inside and outside human beings. He was the word of God son of virgin Maryam peace be upon her.
    Please spare these holy figures from such kind of discussion.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Your impression of what Jesus was, is an illusion. So is the writer's. No one knows anything solid, verifiable or certain about the real person the legends were based on. And to suggest that one does is utter nonsense.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      "Messengers of God are indeed role models of humanity"
      so many assumptions in such a short phrase

      January 6, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Akira

      His own filthy thoughts and personality?
      Really?
      Because he dared to opine that Jesus was man of his times, and was subject to human body functions which are totally natural?
      Jesus being human, and all, did you think that Jesus wouldn't fart?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • mea

      You disgrace the atoms in the air you breathe with your ignorance.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
  2. IvotedforObama

    Jesus wasn't white with blonde hair.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      My invisible pink unicorn is white with blonde hair (oh, and pink too).

      January 6, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • LET ME HELP YOU OBAMA FANS -

      JESUS didn't just give people free stuff so that they would vote for him...

      January 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • AND NO, JESUS WASN'T BLACK...

      Just in case you were wondering :-)

      January 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Proud Muslim

      Jesus was neither white or black but some color in between.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  3. CAN YOU SOLVE THIS RIDDLE?

    Here's a riddle: What is left, lame, and losing credibility by the day?

    Yep, CNN.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      My invisible pink unicorn thinks the bible is credible.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I'm liberal, and they seem to be gaining credibility. Odd isn't it?

      You want right, turn the channel back to Fox News. If you don't like CNN then why are reading them?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore."
      It's right there, the last sentence in the article.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
  4. I DON'T CARE WHAT ANYONE SAYS, JESUS WAS AMAZING!

    Any person who actually takes the time to read even the Gospel of John will come to the conclusion that Jesus, was truly amazing!

    January 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      My invisible pink unicorn is also amazing, and you don't even have to read anything.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • hee hee

      I read it. Kind of nice in parts.

      You should read some other books too!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Zlad

      I feel the exact same way about Curly Howard of the Three Stooges.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I expect more from a god.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I've read John. What exactly are you talking about?

      Of course, I can see that if you take what is written by the gospel propagandists literally, and believe what they say, that must be pretty spectacular indeed. But since I don't, then for me, it's nothing more than an interesting bit of fiction.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      I'm sure it's ok if I disagree with you, right?
      As far as I can tell, nothing in the bible is particularly enlightening
      plenty philosophers before and after it have done much much more to bring about reason and understanding to us than anyone involved in your "sacred" texts could
      the only thing that is keeping you from going beyond your bible is ignorance

      January 6, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  5. CNN - YOU ARE LOSING CREDIBILITY BY THE MINUTE!

    CNN – I'm curious, what kind of messages are you trying to send? The more dumb things like this that you post, the dumber and less credibility your site receives.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      The Liberty U professor (guffaw) offered this idiotic piece to CNN. Don't blame them for having a sense of humor.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • Sinner And Saint

      CNN has gotten 3700 responses to this article and counting...! Looks like they know how to push buttons and generate online buzz. Apparently all it takes is anything religious!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • cave man

      The entire purpose of Belief Blog is to foment friction between believers and non-believers so they will rant at each other in the comments section. It gets a lot of hits by doing this. All Belief Blog articles are either inflamitory, irrelevent, or stupid...sometimes all three.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  6. MagicPanties

    "... he let himself be killed, and then he busted open a tomb..."

    Way to go after those millenials, yeah! We're talking action thriller here.

    This is how an all-powerful god that created the world presents himself?
    Puh-leez.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • JJ

      Yes, and then he was whisked away to paradise. Christians worship his "suffering" and the bible more than anything in the cult. There are billions of humans who have suffered far greater than this pansy and would give anything to trade places with his bad weekend.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
  7. jesus

    So you all gonna pretend religion is the back bone of all things that are? So are you all gonna be praying to the same god when alien's invades this planet and assume your gonna be saved? Assumption is the mother of all f-up's and so is religion.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      When them aliens coming? I gots to know.
      I be praising Geezus when I meets them aliens.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • JJ

      Just no anal probes please!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • jesus

      do you wanna be praying to t-rex too ?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Truth

      You are the one persecuting... Why write here? Are you afraid it might be true? You should take some time to figure out the cause for your actions.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
  8. Don

    All non-believers believe in the Golden Rule, which existed 400 years BCE. We are definitely not angry. We do believe in Science and quantum physics.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • jesus

      and this is why all the non believer's of your own beliefs are always persecuted for being different.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Real Deal

      Don,

      Yep... and The Golden Rule concept goes back even further in history than that. An early example of the Golden Rule that reflects the Ancient Egyptian concept of Maat appears in the story of The Eloquent Peasant, which dates to the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BCE): "Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you."

      January 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  9. Wow! How long did you study the Bible to come up with that?

    2 years, maybe 4? How long did you go to college or bible school to come up with such a "breathtaking insight"?

    Wow! Jesus actually used the restroom while in mortality. What a truth! Thank you so much for enlightening my mind with such wisdom! If you can't sense the sarcasm, something is wrong....

    I have an idea, why not study his words and try to live them instead of dehumanizing him... Maybe more effective?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
  10. Sinner And Saint

    If He would give himself over to death on a cross, why would Jesus not also give himself over to dysentery and other human discomforts/diseases? He came here to relate to us and to show us The Way. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised to find this excellent article from someone at Liberty. I was prepared to dislike it, but I agree in whole! Good job, Mr. Moore! I am of the opinion that Jesus was probably even more of a "dirty human" than Mr. Moore described here.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
  11. KJO

    Was there one point of value in this write up? The subject is the greatest historical figure of all time - and this person Johnnie's contribution as an "author" is to inform the readers that Jesus may have at a time in His life, suffered from diarrhea? I would like to know how many people actually clicked on the "follow Johnnie" link.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • hee hee

      The greatest historical figure of all time is Maxwell or Faraday, or Newton.

      For example, because of Maxwell and Faraday, we have electricity, which changed the condition of humanity radically.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • I'm glad someone else agrees with me!

      This article was so lame!

      January 6, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
  12. whatever

    I do not see anyone Writing anything about MOSES. Why it is like that?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • whatever

      can anyone answer my question?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Because you didn't Google "Moses", would be my first guess...

      January 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      OK, there was no Moses.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  13. Proud Muslim

    If Jesus is "full man and full God" according to Christian belief then why should it be so difficult to believe that he had human functions. If we do not wish to admit his human functions then can we also deny his divine qualities?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
  14. My2bits

    God the Father entered into Jesus at the river Jordan when John baptized him.
    He left Jesus in the garden of gethsemane. Jesus died wholly as a man and his blood was the blood of God.
    God (who is a Spirit) indwelt Jesus only for the 3 years of his ministry. Jesus was not a Jew. He was the Son of God.
    God created the embryo in the womb of Mary she did not contribute any genetics to him.
    "search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life"
    "hid from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babe's such as will learn"
    "destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again" spoken by the Father through the lips of Jesus

    January 6, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Itybits!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • PepCap

      u forgot about the gun part!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I'm pretty sure My2Bits, that the actual events were not as ridiculous as you just made them sound.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  15. cave man

    So this article is suggesting that Jesus was in fact a dirty human, not a dirty ape. Unless, of course, evolution is true and Jesus was actually a dirty ape/man...oh, and a god...and a sarcastic one at that. Thank you Belief Blog.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  16. mddong

    I laugh when I see pics of Jesus blonde and blue, like Brad Pitt in a bad cologne commercial. Jesus, sorry to say and sorry to offend, probably looked more like Osama Bin Laden than Mr. Pitt.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • Proud Muslim

      Hard to accept for most people but you are right.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • PepCap

      There r also blue gods out there!!! All these fictional gods are depicted by someones imagination.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • cave man

      I always picture him with a handle bar mustache.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • JJ

      Someone said earlier that his anglo pics looked more like Barry Gibb....lol.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
  17. Ec1warc1

    Jesus had dysentery? He could cure the blind, but he couldn't cure himself of diarrhea? You religious folks speculating on what Jesus was really like is laughable. If Jesus lived at all, he was certainly no miracle maker. Just a dude with a following that people wrote about years later, making the story much bigger than it ever really was.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • Don

      You are absolutely correct. There never was a Jesus. We are all accidental mutations caused by neutrinos colliding with each other. No garden of Eden. Read the bible cover to cover to see that it is a complete myth.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Ro

      Jesus is a historical figure, not just a religious one in Christian theology. There are writings that mention him outside of the Bible. He did exist. Even if you are not a Christian and don't believe in God or Christianity, it is a proven fact that he was a true person who once lived. He is written about in Roman historical texts as well as Greek and Aramaic. In these writing, some of his deeds were mentioned, as well - including how he healed people miraculously. I don't believe these stories to be exaggerated. When people who never even met each other write some of the same stories about the same man - (over a period of 400 years between the old and new testament) I am not sure what more proof one would need that he existed.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • Real Deal

      Ro,

      These extra-Biblical "mentions" were simply reports about the new Christian cult and what they *claimed* about their super-hero.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  18. unk

    jesus did not even exist, fools

    January 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • Apatheist

      Maybe so, maybe not. Doesn't change anything.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Hairy Johnson

      Keep rejecting the truth all you want. You WILL stand before the one true living God Jesus Christ sooner of later. Time is ticking. Jesus loves you. Interesting how many automatically hate and/or reject the Lord Jesus Christ without seeking him with all their heart in prayer and reading his Word –the Holy Bible. Time is short. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus Christ is Lord!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Athy

      Great post, Hairy. Helps the atheist cause no end.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • PepCap

      Hey Hairy why does he hate the Jets???

      January 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • hee hee

      @Hairy Johnson: You're wrong. Thor will strike you with his hammer, whilst I drink mead in Vallhall.

      Does that sound silly? Most of northern Europe believed that 1400 years ago. Challenge: explain why your myth is different. Bonus: do it in such a way that someone looking from outside religions can see it. (For the record, true or false, the myth of Thor is WAY cooler. At least the Aesir didn't repress themselves like the author of this article).

      January 6, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • hee hee

      @Hairy Johnson: You're wrong. Thor will strike you with his hammer, whilst I drink mead in Vallhall.

      Does that sound silly? Most of northern Europe believed that 1400 years ago. Challenge: explain why your myth is different. Bonus: do it in such a way that someone looking from outside religions can see it.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
  19. hee hee

    I LOVE Cheeses.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  20. DC

    Is CNN dirtier than we think?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Hairy Johnson

      haha good one sir

      January 6, 2013 at 10:26 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.