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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. Flying Spaghetti Monster

    And alot less white.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  2. albert

    I stopped reading after the comment "But despite the Christian belief that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, " Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus ever claim to be God. He always stated the the Father was greater than he was. The author of this article is obviously not a Bible expert. In fact, he is an apostate.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Booga booga!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • dreamer96

      Actually Jesus says many times His Kingdom is in the Next World, that is were he has most of his powers....While Jesus had powers to heal and do amazing things in this world, His real powers were in the next world...Maybe that is why innocent people die horrible deaths in this world....because in the next world things will be different....That one's death in this world, kind, or horrible, the next world is better....

      January 6, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Christian beliefs are not always supported in the Bible.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  3. pw

    This is the most retarded fairy tale about a fairy tale I have ever read.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  4. Ken

    Jeus is Lord !!!

    January 6, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      I thought Jeebus was Lord.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Ed F.

      And nonexistant

      January 6, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Marty

      Amen Ken, ...dont mind the haters.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  5. humuncoloid

    And, because of lead plumbing in Roman times, he was probably an imbecile or mentally retarded from lead poisoning.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  6. Jmh

    Johnny moore solely opinion. Thats it.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  7. modu

    Love, peace, humility, truth, holiness and other immeasurable virtues, which Jesus Christ perfectly exemplified to humanity remains forever and they are the true values that keeps the world clean.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:12 am |
  8. humuncoloid

    Nope.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:11 am |
  9. dreamer96

    Jesus was not dirty...He was Earthy....Covered with the good Earth...I laugh at the parents that keep their kids sparkily clean, never expose them to dirt or play, never expose them to the real world, and real life...

    Every Baby is born without much of an immune system...Many get the first start of a real immune system from their mother's breast milk...That is the best way...In fact in some villages around the world..All the newborn babies are breast feed by all the other mothers in the village that have new babies...This insures all the babies have a combined immune system from all the mothers.... In the case of ones immunte system....the wider the sources of human antibodies ...the better.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • cjbigcat

      Are you responding to another article, or are you just infatuated with breast milk?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • dreamer96

      cjbigcat

      Just cracks me up all the Church goers that are squeaky clean, in their Sunday Best, wearing Gold, and Silver Jewelry, driving a big new expensive car...think they are going to Jesus's Heaven....Jesus's Heaven will be filled with the dirty poor, the hard working average man...covered with dirt, oil, sweat..All those with a good heart...not a fat wallet...

      January 6, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • gregniowa

      Breast milk does not communicate immune information, only the early pre-milk colostrum does, which contains immune transfer factor molecules. Nursing from multiple mothers that were beyond the colostrum stage would not provide diverse immunity information,

      January 6, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  10. Gene Simmons

    We still talk about this guy like he was spotted building a bird house yesterday. He broke the law. A few recently broke the law in the US, starting cults, and they were considered crazy. What's the difference? We do today what the did then. Jail them or kill them with tanks and machine guns.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  11. Jon_eriqski

    Ms.johnie, sorry i don't accept your demented stories, about our lord, the man came from God performed miracles every day being clean all the time would be nothing idiot, plus one more thing the bible warns us about cretins like YOU ! ! !

    January 6, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  12. monstersdoexist

    I dare anyone to post an article about "that other" popular prophet.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • JJ

      Oh..your feelings got hurt because not everybody has bought the bullshit about your particular prophet, baby jeesus?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      I walked into a Muslim clothing store – asked if they had any bomber jackets.

      I asked how business was – they said profits (prophets) were going through the roof.

      A teacher at a Muslim suicide bombing class told his class, "Okay, I'm only going to show you this once".

      January 6, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  13. stevie68a

    jesus is imaginary, jesus is imaginary. Shout it from the rooftops!

    January 6, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • monstersdoexist

      Move along, Stevie...there is nothing for you to see here.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • JJ

      Yes, there's nothing for you to see for baby jesus is inbisible and dead for over 2000 years.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Marty

      Jesus is God. You will see soon but that will be too late for you to repent.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  14. truth be told

    When examining statements on these blogs all morally decent peoples must first realize that every comment by every so called atheist is a bold faced lie. Lying is one of two requirements to be a self deceived "atheist".

    January 6, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • Brian

      I'm an Atheist. You are saying that every comment I make is a lie? That makes no sense. I believe the Earth is round. Is that a lie too?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • truth be told

      You are a liar, plain and simple, you have zero credibility and the sooner you realize decent people are on to you the better it will be for them.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Brian, truth be told is a religitard, a subset of the family fukktardius maximus. Best to ignore him.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  15. Jesus is God

    Jesus while on earth mingled with some of the poorest of the poor, ate with sinners, forgave mans dirtful sins, yes he dealt with dirt throughout his life onearth. Get saved by believing in Jesus the Christ, ye whitewashed tombs!

    January 6, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • JWT

      Why would I need saving ?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • Jesus is God

      Saved to have life eternal, saved from your sinfulness. Can't go to heaven in sinfulness unless forgiven by God.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • JWT

      Since I have no gods then there is no heaven and no need to be saved.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Brian

      I'm curious. My cousin just lost his three year old daughter to leukemia. She was a precious little girl just beginning to learn how to talk. Is she burning in hell since she didn't have a chance to 'talk to Jesus'.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  16. Mea

    Consider reading an excellent essay by Philip Appleman.
    The Labyrinth: God, Darwin and the Meaning of Life
    http://billmoyers.com/content/the-labyrinth-god-darwin-and-the-meaning-of-life-2/

    January 6, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  17. JustaThought

    THIS is CNN's lead news story?

    January 6, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • monstersdoexist

      Uh, er, ummm...Yeah!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • VirginiaMike

      My first thought too...

      January 6, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  18. THINK

    Gandalf, Strider, and Bilbo were all pretty gritty too...but you never really ever read about or saw them poop. Ficitional stories skip over gritty details that are not germane to the main plot line. This article is very similar to debating when, how, and if Gandalf bathed or brushed his teeth. Did Jesus brush his teeth? Really.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • JJ

      Agree...kinda like debating how heavy Thor's hammer must have weighed.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  19. magnum12

    Great article! Moore is saying that Jesus was born part human, so that as a God He would have empathy for all of man's moral and physical shortcomings. In other words:

    And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  20. Jim Day

    Thank you for an article that describes the Jesus I belive in. He had every emotion and feeling that any human has and was still sinless! Your description of Him only makes me closer to Him.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:03 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.