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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.

'Jesus Wife' fragment gets more testing, delays article

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. What!?

    Jesus was dirty? Well, sure, Jesus can be whatever you want him to be, because Jesus is a fiction. So go ahead and write your own story of Jesus – most Christian do the same thing more or less. They create their own Jesus who tells them that they are special, and good. If they like money, they say Jesus wants me to be rich and cheat on my taxes. If they like guns, they say the bible encourages the ownership of automatic rifles. If they hate one group or another, they say Jesus is on their side. Whatever, so now Jesus is dirty. Cool.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • JPX

      Word.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Gentile

      So, aal those YOU consider belonging to the Christian faith believe the same things? So,,All democrates are against guns and for Abortion and Welfare. Now i see. Thankyou!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Dennis

      Very sad the bitterness that atheists have about everything..Must be a very difficult life..

      January 6, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • AlFranken

      Just as you chose to make him fiction. That's your prerogative of necessities as well.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Khalid

      Johnnie,

      Jesus can never be what you described in you article, He and his mother were amongst the cleanest and noblest who stepped on this earth. I have stated below verses 42 & 45 from chapter 3 (Al-Imran) from the Quran for your reference.

      "There came the time when angels said; "O Mary!" Surely, God has exalted you, purified you, and preferred you for His service over all the women of the worlds. (3:42)

      "...He (Jesus) will be noble in this world and the Hereafter; and will be from those who are very close to God" 3:45

      January 6, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Chris

      Jesus is a fictional character? How ignorant. There is copious extra Biblical evidence for Jesus. Do a search. There is more evidence that Jesus existed than for many historical characters, like Hannibal Barca.

      February 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • ¿¿lol

      And then there are the early Christian apologists who said that the reason the gospels look so much like earlier pagan writings was because Satan had made a pre-emptive strike to fool everyone. LOL.

      February 2, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • End Religion

      your jesus never existed. There isn't one credible eyewitness. You're praying to imaginary beings. Grow up.

      February 2, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
  2. marie

    It's funny how many atheists won't give a minute to what Jesus Christ our Lord said; but rather look on the "outside". Many Blind Pharisees. It's just as Jesus Christ said: Thou Blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is in the cup and platter, that the outside can be clean too. No, He's not talking about the actual platter, He's talking about us. Thats in Matthew 23 for those who give a hoot.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • sam stone

      marie: your scripture is only relevant to those who accept it's validity. so, quoting bible blah blah blah is only so effective

      January 6, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • JWT

      I don't give any time to the strange voices in my head either. And they are more deserving of my time.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • What!?

      Marie is right, Atheists do not give "a minute to what JCOL says." That's because it's just not worth wasting a good minute.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Gentile

      Marie,,dont let them anger you. You know a Hard Heart when you hear one. They should read Revelation. Last chapter.Though most all of them wont get it. You can see but still be blind.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • scanboy

      It's funny how christians keep telling me what I have or haven't done, read, or thought about. I was born into a family of christian missionary grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. I can quote the bible better than most christians I know. The bible is a man (male) written fiction. The sooner it's reclassified in the library with the world's mythologies the better.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  3. truth be told

    To all decent people – remember all so called atheists are liars. Knowledge of the self deluded atheists lack of credibility puts all their statements in proper perspective.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • What!?

      I wouldn't call Atheists liars – I'd call them... sensible. Which usually upsets folks like you.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • sam stone

      tbt: still dreaming about doing the lewinski thing on the savior? blessed are those who c-o-m-e in the name of jesus

      January 6, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  4. NoTags

    This was an interesting article. A few months ago I was talking to a Christian friend about Jesus' return and how many people would fail to recognize him because he will not look like the person we see in many drawings today.

    I believe he will be crystal clean on his return, however he will not be 'lily white' as he is depicted in some of the drawings. In my opinion he will be light brown to medium dark brown as many middle easterners are, probably have a typical large Middle Eastern nose, etc.

    A few years ago John MacArthur was discussing the Book of Mormon. At 1 Nephi 11:13 Mary was described this way, "she was exceedingly fair and white." To paraphrase John MacArthur he stated something like this; Just how "fair and white" could Mary have been, she was a Jew you know"?

    I hope and pray that when Jesus does return Christians will not reject him since he is not going to physically look the way many expect him to look.

    As a note, I am sure atheists will criticize this post as they normally do. Just let me say this, I could care less what you believe or disbelieve. Snide remarks don't bother me in the least, so save your time with antichristian responses.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      "Crystal clean"? What is crystal clean?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • What!?

      I agree with this post. When Jesus returns he will not look like the familiar images we're used to. He's gonna look like Hulk Hogan – only much dirtier if this article is to be believed.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • JPX

      I love how you religious nuts still believe that the magic man is going to come back some day. Live your life and stop worrying about such silliness.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • sam stone

      you mean you COULDN'T care less, don't you?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • sam stone

      "Crystal clean"? What is crystal clean?

      I heard some voices telling me that you are not fully clean until you're zestfully clean. then i realized i had fallen asleep on the couch with the TV on

      January 6, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Gentile

      You need to read more. No one will reject Him on His return. And all those who perished will be caught up in a blink of an eye. The non-beleivers will know then too.It will be there final stand though.Just simply Pray for them and do your job.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • sam stone

      what!?: he would have looked more like middle eastern people do now than hulk hogan

      January 6, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • sam stone

      yep, jesus is coming back.....annnny time now.......

      January 6, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Oh yeah, any time now ... like they've been saying for almost 2000 years. Any time now. Still waitin' ... and waitin' ... and waitin' ...

      January 6, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  5. chesteraction

    Why did this deserve a front page post? There is no revelation here? Jesus was dirty... so what! Duh.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  6. Newport Pagnell

    Wow! All you could come up with today CNN. No wonder people stopped watching.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  7. Jholder

    We have gotten to the point where we hide behind "freedom of expression" in order to write what ever we feel in a blog, book, movie, etc. Thank God for Grace and mercy, these two are the reason why no one will seek you out to curse, hurt, or destroy you similar to other religion when you insult the figure that they adore and treasure. And to think that Jesus Christ died for you too. SMH!!! Based on that same freedom I referred to at the beginning I will share this thought with all, I'd rather spend my whole life seving Jesus, die, to then find out the this heaven was a figment of my imagination, than no believing, endorsing writings such as this, doubting Jesus, die, to then discover that hell was all so true. They way I see it it's your choice.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Hey, what if you spend your life believing this silliness, then when you die you learn that there IS a god, and he's pis-sed off at you for being such a doofus, and then he sends you to hell forever?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • SixDegrees

      This is Pascal's Wager, and has been recognized as a fallacy for hundreds of years. Faith through Fear demands that you worship not just one particular god, but ALL gods – because you likewise can't know if their version of the afterlife is true. Your insistence on preparing for only one particular fate exposes your premise as a lie.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • sam stone

      pretty weak argument, Jholder

      January 6, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  8. Mr. Duckworth

    We live in a Sinful fallen world. Those who follow Jesus will not be followers with the stuff in the media and won't be "Ok" with the accepted terrible crimes of today, like abortion. Those who follow Jesus literally by giving their life to Service and helping the poor (like Mother Theresa) will always be strongly criticized and attacked in society – like she was. By the way- Hippies and New Agers- the Dali Lama, whos religion and philosophy and practices like mediation and meatless diet, Yoga, etc – you all have embraced – clearly states abortion is killing and not accepted by the Buddist religion. Did you know that ?

    January 6, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • JoeCop389

      You just HAD to bring abortion into the discussion. Give. It. A. Rest.

      Religion has done more to divide people than bring them together. It is a concept that was created by the mind of man to control other men – AND women! One does not need to be religious – or even spiritual – to be a good person.

      Under no persuasion could I ever be made to believe that a human sacrifice thousands of years ago vicariously redeems me from sin. Peroid.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • sam stone

      "We live in a Sinful fallen world."

      is one of the sins capitalizing words needlessly?

      what does that dalai lama got to do with this?

      "hippies"? what are you, 80?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  9. Ed F.

    Holy S#IT!!!! Jesus had the runs!!!

    Jesus is a myth.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Christian7

      How do you know Jesus is a myth?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Gentile

      The Author of this garbage is now dirtier than he was before. Its easy to mock someone. Especially if you have no respect for them and only see there outside appearance by choice. Its also easy to see that the author is trying to bring Jesus to his own pitiful level. Not workable,but then the author doesnt look to bright. Oh,,am i judging the authors outward appearance? Now were the same. But niether of us will Ever be on the Level Jesus is ON.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • sam stone

      "The Author of this garbage is now dirtier than he was before. Its easy to mock someone. Especially if you have no respect for them and only see there outside appearance by choice. Its also easy to see that the author is trying to bring Jesus to his own pitiful level. Not workable,but then the author doesnt look to bright. Oh,,am i judging the authors outward appearance? Now were the same. But niether of us will Ever be on the Level Jesus is ON"

      I caught three misspellings, and four unwarranted capitalizations

      You are correct about not being on same level jesus is on. We exist.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • sam stone

      my bad. four misspellings

      January 6, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  10. green eyed monster

    good food for thought. He seems very annoyed at the extent to which one should stay clean. He hated trees, though. He had no sin and broke no law, though.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  11. Winston O'boogie

    True, Jesus was a dirty long haired hippy drifter dressed in robes and sandals trucking around drinking wine and spewing talk of love and peace and harmony.....there's not much in the Bible of his carpentry...if it was in between all his touring, he must not have been employed very much (typical hippy!)....Jesus was the John Lennon or the Charlie Manson of his age! He quickly acquired a cult following and had to be put down by "the authorities" because he was viewed as a "rabble rouser".......Oh the humanity!!!!

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

      Actually, the Bible never says he was a carpenter, as well as I can recall. It does say he was the SON of a carpenter, and people assume he followed his father's trade. But not necessarily.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  12. scanboy

    I guess my first post didn't get through censorship because i used real words for the body parts that men have. And if the guy everybody is talking about had those parts too he would have been forced, by biology, to deal with them on his own or with a partner.

    Think of this too. The devil would have won his attempt to temp in one stroke if he offered the guy a never-ending harem. How many heroes of the bible were brought down by ONE woman?

    Without any expression of bodily or emotional pair-bonding love, this guy is merely a caricature created by authors' for their purposes.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  13. englehart

    II'm not surprised that so many of my Christian brothers and sisters are outraged by this article. It would appear that many of them are upset with you for stating the obvious, Jesus was human. I'm sure he did have to go to the bathroom, had dirt under his fingernails, maybe even picked his nose! I came into this article thinking it was going to be too radical for me, but I found it engaging and thought-provoking. We also often portray Jesus as Caucasian in our depictions. Another way that society has slowly altered his characteristics to its liking. Thank you for writing Johnnie.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  14. Mrcpu1

    In all reality, if Jesus had been born in the middle ages, he would have been decried a witch and burned at the stake instead of at the hands of the romans it would have been at the hands of (insert name of religion here...). come on people, Don't mix your faith with reality, the two never exists well together. One simply needs to look at the middle east to see how well Sharia law is in terms of equality in modern times. Time to move along, nothing to see here.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  15. greg

    Is this news? A man went to the bathroom respective to the era he lived. Think if this was an article on Mohammed CNN would be in trouble. Really silly waste of space!

    January 6, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • JJ

      It's about Jesus because it's an American news site you idiot. At least Mohammad doesn't claim to be a god even though he was a dirty deluded cult leader too.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • greg

      I thought CNN had world news,coverage! MAY BE ONLY know how to read on two letter US.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Reality Check

      Thanks for reading the Belief *blog* as in it is not news, it is an opinion. An opinion that for some helps them look at an issue with a new perspective.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  16. kathy

    I take offense at your article. In fact it makes me angry. Your right, he was a man and with all that that encompasses. On the cross, I can imagine that he was so parched having only His sweat for water. In excruciating pain to the likes I can not even imagine, and bring tears to my eyes if I were. In pain from His back moving against a splintered wood cross , after having been whipped. A man having thorns digging into His flesh and praying for God to let it be finished.
    On the cross He may have deficated or urinated Himself but is that really the story here? Your article is crude and it seems an attack against the man that is my Savior. Think before you type.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • SixDegrees

      I pray that Jesus sprays you with his holy explosive diarrhea.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Ed F.

      Jesus wiped himself with the right hand of god.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Christian7

      I agree.

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

      Wow, you crazy bitch. What about all the tens of thousands of others who the Romans crucified? Why don't they get you all hot and bothered too? You sound like a real sicko.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ kathy – he's god, right? He sends a little piece of himself to Earth, as Jesus, knowing in advance that this will happen, and knowing in advance that the human body of Jesus will die, then come back to life, then go back to heaven.

      That's not a sacrifice for god. That's like you snipping off the tiniest bit of one hair, knowing it will grow back.

      No sacrifice, Use your brain.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • JPX

      Kathy, you sound like a nut-job.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Reality Check

      I don't think a VP at Liberty University has any intention to attack Christianity. If anything, it sounds like he is trying to remind Christians of the humanity and humility in Christ. Christ is God with us not just in some loose spiritual or metaphorical sense, but with us in every aspect of life and likewise we can choose to be more Christlike in every aspect of our own life.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  17. merry

    Well written. Thought provoking. Thank you!

    January 6, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  18. Religions are fairy tales.

    Some heavy reading for those with light heads. Your fables are blinding you to the truth of humanity and need to cease. http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm Dispute if you wish, but your belief in the centuries old zombie deity is based on hearsay and fables. There is no factual proof that this zombie bas-tard ever existed and your blind following of "it" is based on what you have been taught. Stop being a fool, there are no gods!

    January 6, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • dam

      I agree–Jesus life story became a legend, just as Santa's did.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  19. dreamer96

    I always wondered If man was made in God's image...Does that mean God has a heavenly Toilet?....Some how I would have thought a supreme being would have made humans without the need to go to the bathroom,..or a smeally body...why do we have Body Odor?....Are there parts of Heaven that smell bad?...

    January 6, 2013 at 8:16 am |
  20. My Jesus was a Horn Dog

    And therefore, if fully man, he would have been a chronic masturbator as a teenage boy, and he would have looked at the ladies with lust in his heart and a bulge in his robes, and he would have engaged in some s-ex games with other guys – circle jerks, perhaps – and would have taken more than the occasional tumble with the prost-itutes.

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

      The fact is, Jesus was a man; but thankfully, not a man like you.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      "The fact is". The FACT is? really? You know that as a FACT, do you???? A fact? A fact?

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha haHa ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

      Now THAT was funny,

      January 6, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • woody

      I'm fully man, and I don't engage in those activities. I've actually learned to control my urges...it's called discipline and Godly living. Try it sometime and stop trying to bring Jesus down to your level,

      January 6, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      But the poster was just taking the article to its logical conclusion, Woody. Are you telling me that, as a teenage boy, you never once polished the bishop, as it were?

      And how do you KNOW that Jesus didn't engage in those activities?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:32 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.