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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. David

    I actually had to look twice at the authors name to make sure it wasn't written by Bill Maher or something. I get that you wanted to paint Jesus us a radical – he was crucified for being one. I don't understand the need for 50% of this blog to be poop jokes, but people can do whatever they want. Some of the things you say may be true, I just don't see the point in mentioning them.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Ben

      Nothing more radical for a Jew than to claim to actually be God. It's blasphemy, actually.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Lou

      @David
      Jesus was opposed by the fundamentalists of his time, the Pharisees. Of course he was a radical.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • New Athiest

      I never thought of it that way before.
      if jesus could be thought of as the square root of god, and he went on forever, he could be truely radical.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  2. Renee'

    I love this article, it depicts my Jesus, and a man. Which he was, but also divine...which he IS!
    I've sat through teachings that examined the human side of Christ, the daily chores, even the true bloodiness of the cruxificion!

    January 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Lou

      He would have been stripped naked on the cross, you know? None of this Tarzan loin cloth nonsense.

      Was Jesus always divine? If he was, and he knew it, then how much of a sacrifice really was it for him to give up his human life? About as troublesome as losing a life in Call of Duty perhaps?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  3. Larry

    All you believers out there please be careful in your responses and refrain from using sarcasm, insult or bitterness. Remember the words we speak are spirit and has potential to minster life or death. Let the LOVE commandment be paramount in whatever we write or say. God is LOVE and whatever we do that is out of step with LOVE will only empower the devil. Remember God does not need us to defend Him. According to 1 Peter 3:15 our responsibility is: sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that ask you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Michael P.

      That's sarcasm, right?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Rich

      Amen, brother:) Same goes for non-believers, agnostics, etc... LOVE should be the basis by which we behave towards others, regardless of creed or belief.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Ken

      Without hearing any sarcasm, insult or bitterness from conservative Christians how would we even know that they exist? There are millions of moderate Christians who keep their opinions to themselves and gladly tolerate the diversity of belief in this country. Act more like them and maybe you'll see less of a reaction to your hate speech in the media?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  4. Truthy McCynical

    I'm going to make the wild ass assumption that a similar article describing the sanitary habits of the prophet of the one, true faith (peace be upon him), he who must not be named (by journalists), would not grace the highly respected pages of the "CNN blogs."

    January 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Ken

      So, you're jealous that people fear Muslim radicals more than Christian ones?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  5. The Eternal Satyr

    Bible literalists have diarrhea and dirt under their fingernails, which makes their fingers smell bad, worse than if they just had dirt under their nails.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      I thought you had that manicurist mentality satyr.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Which God?

      @ HMMMMMM. Is that the sound of contentment you heve when your head is up your azz? The statments you make are purly your own, have no basis in Fact, so you are ideed a bald-faced liar, as well as as a vile individual.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  6. HMMMMMMMMMM

    yeah love the neighbor and don't be selfish and help children is just a stupid way to live....everyone knows live for your self and do what ever you want...yeah that works much better.....look how wonderful our world is.....who needs the perfect way to live our lives....party on!

    January 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Ben

      A lot of us atheists love our neighbors enough not to go around saying that they're bad people just because they don't share our beliefs. We try to help children develop good reasoning skills and to be happy no matter what orientation they might be. We're also not so selfish as to shun people in order to better our chances of getting some reward after we die.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      why would you think the lifestyle for non-believers is do whatever you want, and dont help people?
      what a bizarre statement.

      January 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  7. Buster

    @Akira

    There were a few typos in my sentence. What I meant to say is that we defile ourselves by what comes out of our self, and not by what we put into it. This reflects itself in words, actions, etc...It makes no sense to clean the outside of a cup, if the inside is dirty. Jesus was outwardly clean, but it does not matter if he were outwardly dirty because he washes our inside white as snow.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • The Brown Note

      Incorrect.

      This is just another means of justiying something that is most defintely not factual in nature.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • frank

      What a load of crap.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • rbud

      That's an awful lot of religious jargon in your post, jargon that only religiously indoctrinated people would understand. Outside of an evangelical worship or study, it has no meaning. You might want to rethink the meaning of those things, maybe put them into more universally understandable language.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  8. joeehall

    Jesus ( no pun intended ). CNN is hurting for news,,,,,bad.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      4750 posts is a home run for cnn fool.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • The Eternal Satyr

      It should be obvious by now that CNN (nor Fox Noise nor MSNBC, etc) are interested in news. This piece is just another example of how the media is compelled to stir up the religious pot from time to time to get the believers and the non-believers yapping again. We haven't had a mass shooting yet today so what else are they going to do?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  9. City on a Shining Hill

    Jesus actually wept, at the tomb of his friend, Lazaras, showing He was truly a human man, yet God. He had great compassion on those He encountered, such as the blind man whom He gave sight, and the leper whom He restored to health. And, He offers the same compassion as the God who can forgive sins, and grant eternal life.

    Let's embrace Him!

    January 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • The Brown Note

      No.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • ME II

      Umm, I think it was the city that was supposed to shine, not the hill.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • I wonder

      City on a Shining Hill,

      What is the verified evidence that any of those things really happened?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • The Eternal Satyr

      Why doesn't God/Jesus heal amputees?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • rbud

      I don't see how Jesus tears make him human. The implication is that gods don't cry - how would anyone know something like that?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Great compassion?

      “He had great compassion on those He encountered, such as the blind man whom He gave sight”

      If he has so much compassion and was such a powerful god, why didn’t he eliminate all blindness forever?

      January 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  10. blahblahblah

    Good article. Indeed, Jesus was fully human (and fully God). It was important that he be tested in all the ways that humans are tested, yet without flaw. This way he is a perfect sacrifice and somebody that is relatable. He knows our pain, our suffering because he has endured it, and worse. The best part is that God chose to do this because he wanted to save us. He didn't just get a taste of humanity; he went all in.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • snowboarder

      a sacrifice to whom?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • The Eternal Satyr

      blahblahblah indeed! Not one original thought to your entire post. You're a religious parrot, just repeating yet again what you've heard repeated ad nauseam from the pulpit. You're brainwashed. Congratulations.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • jim

      So let me get this right. Being god the only way he could understand being human was to create himself as a man? So much for being all knowing. He created himself as a man so that he could save us from himself? Great plan. Also I would hardly call it a sacrifice. An eternal all powerful god enduring a single human lifetime with a known outcome can hardly be called a sacrifice. What did he go without exactly? It would be comparable to Bill Gates lending someone 1$ for 1 week and getting it back afterwards.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • avgcat85

      Not 'to' whom, but 'for' whom.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  11. JC

    There is no credible historical evidence that Jesus even existed.

    In fact there is more historical evidence of Santa Claus, The Loch Ness Monster, Unicorns, and Alien Visitation than there is of Jesus.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • blahblahblah

      Get that from Richard Dawkins? Most scholars don't take you seriously after you try to claim that Jesus never existed.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Rich

      To say he did not exist is silliness. The credible evidence is the vast number of verbal – then written and recorded – stories of his life and behavior. God or not, he was as much flesh as Ghandi, King, and Mandela.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Havildar

      Strange for someone that you claim did not exist ... He is mentioned as a Prophet in the Islamic holy book the Koran and someone that has Billions of people following him around the world. Guess you are just wrong.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • The Eternal Satyr

      I rather favor the ancient aliens theory myself. It tends to answer a lot of questions about the origin of "intelligent" life on Earth.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • The Eternal Satyr

      @blahblahblah: You meant to write: "Most BIBLE scholars don't take you seriously after you try to claim that Jesus never existed."

      January 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  12. Whateva

    Who talks about someone taking a dump anyway. Weirdo much??.. I just want to give thanks to Jesus, Cause without him leading all the fools into a death trap. Heaven would be ruined by a bunch of corrupt and ignorant simpletons wanting handouts without actually having to make an effort to be worthy. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Don't say I didn't warn you.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  13. Tony

    He also wasn't born in December......

    January 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      If we run the statrs backwards using a computer we find Jupiter apearing as a morning star in the house of Aries, eclipsed by the moon on May 14, 6 BCE; the morning of Christ's birth. We know there was a Roman census in 7 bce and Harod the Great died in 4 bce, so it is easy to narrow down to a single event in the sky.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • ME II

      @John P. Tarver,
      Are you saying that Jesus was born on "May 14, 6 BCE"?

      Isn't it odd that Matthew puts his birth in "the days of Herod" who died in 4BCE, while Luke puts it later after Herod during the first census when "Quirinius was governor of Syria". Quinnius wasn't governor until 6CE.

      Which Gospel is correct, Matthew stating before 4 BCE or Luke stating after 6 AD?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Me II- Luke was not there and even includes a disclaimer about the accuracy of "what I heard". Mathew, on the other hand was a tax collector and educateed enough to have produced the Gospel attributed to him. Harod's order to kill babies under 2 and then his sudden death in 4 BCE fits the census and 6 BCE birth fact.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • ME II

      @John P. Tarver,
      So you're saying that the Gospel of Luke is inaccurate?

      "Harod's order to kill babies under 2 and then his sudden death in 4 BCE fits the census and 6 BCE birth fact."
      As I stated Luke mentions the census under Quinnius by name. He was not governor of Syria until 6 CE (not BCE), how does that fit?

      January 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  14. The Eternal Satyr

    Jesus allowed himself to have diarrhea while he cured blindness and leprosy in others? Yeah, I don't think so.

    Read "Jesus and the Lost Goddess" by Tim Freke and Peter Gandy or "The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold" by Acharya S for a more believable explanation of the Jesus story.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • HOLY of the HOLE

      Let us PRAY that he has taken a bath before returning to save us all from the devil
      Jesus, we wish you to have much warm water to wash your behind with before returning to help us in this GOD AWFUL WORLD. We have been waiting for over 2000 years now...that water must be cold by now. Please towel off and get down here pronto

      January 7, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Rebuke

      umm no and no

      January 7, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  15. greg90814

    Let's not forget he was most likely 'brown'... meaning of arabic descent, not the light brown haired and blue eyed guy that modern christians like to portray him as.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Tony

      ssshhhh...dude, you're ruining people's image and beliefs....!

      January 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • The Eternal Satyr

      There are many fair-skinned light-eyed Arabs. However, there are also many people who believe that Jesus was black and even some who think he was an extraterrestrial.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • rbud

      He would have been pre-Mongol, northern Mediterranean or Mesopotamian, Hebrew-Jewish. Plus, the Old Testament prophesy states that he would be ugly and unappealing in appearance. Put that altogether and see what you come up with. (Pre-Mongol could be especially significant.)

      January 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  16. TrueLyfeStreets

    Religion.... LULZZZZ!

    January 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  17. palintwit

    Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. But she must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, speaking only to "real Americans", dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation once again but we must all follow the "Palin Path".

    January 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Lenny

      I know sarcasm when I see it.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • palintwit

      She'd probably do a better job than that idiot Hillary Clinton.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Tony

      wait...it wasn't sarcasm?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • palintwit

      Ah, the fake palintwit rears his scabby little head at 12:14 pm.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  18. John P. Tarver

    Burning humans is Ba'al worship and it is telling that the replacement of Diana with Artemus is in the cross burner's modern bible.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  19. John P. Tarver

    The major conflict in versions of the NT is in Acts, where Diana is replaced by Artemus, therby changing the meaning of every word Paul writes in Corrinthians and Ephesians. This mistelling is also the justification for the Salem witch trials, where St Luke would have been burned for being Artemisia.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  20. dwight

    There is actually more evidence for Jesus than there is for many other people during that time period. The problem is that there are hundreds of manuscripts detailing Jesus life, but because they are very similar, they are disregarded. And because Jesus was't recorded by the Romans, Jesus is seen as just a Jewish myth, although the Jews wanted nothing to do with him. The problem with Jesus being a tall tell who gets bigger with every retelling is that the tale starts out the same and ends the same in every telling, which myths and stories don't do.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • The Brown Note

      What evidence? Can you please provide this alleged evidence? And no, words written in a book decades after his alleged existence do not equal evidence.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • ME II

      @dwight,
      "The problem is that there are hundreds of manuscripts detailing Jesus life, but because they are very similar, they are disregarded."
      There are no independent first hand accounts of Jesus. The Gospels are unlikely to be first hand accounts and independent sources, such as Josephus and others weren't even alive at the time so they must be hearsay.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Havildar

      Plus Jesus is one of the 6 Main Prophets mentioned in the Holy Book of the Muslims the Koran.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
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