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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 • My Take

soundoff (7,741 Responses)
  1. Smith

    This article was created by FYCKING CNN OWNED BY JEWS

    January 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  2. Brian

    Now this is a Jesus I could follow. I believe in God, but just not you're Christian God. I can not bring my self to follow a book who has one through the hands of some of the most evil and corrrupt men in history, or follow men who preach about helping the poor while sitting on thrones of gold. I believe in a God who doesn't encourage preaching about helping people, but actaully going out and helping people, in a God who is more encouraging of forgiveness and accepting people with your heart in stead of condemning them because they believe in something you don't, or do things that you don't like. I believe in a God who doesn't want to be feared, but love, who doesn't want to stand over us, but by us and be our friend, loved as a family member. And for all of this, I'm labeled at a heretic and unbeliever, because I refuse to be a sheep.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  3. gerald gebauer

    Its funny that when we dont understand something or can't understand something we make up answers because we cannot aaccept the fact that there might not be an answer. Hence jesus and a slew of others.

    January 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Kim

      Yes, the mature thing to do when you don't know the answer to something is to admit it. It may not be as comforting as having some guess "answer" ready, but at least you won't be proven wrong like religious answers have been so very often.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  4. Lynx48

    Yes, His hands were probably dirty. Yes, His robes were probably tattered. He was definitely NOT Anglo Saxon with blue eyes and neatly combed blonde hair. He looked like an ordinary man as foretold in Isaiah 53

    He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
    3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
    Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

    However, He spoke like a King, acted like a prince from another kingdom, and taught like one who was highly educated. When He arose from the grave, He had brilliant robes of white on and His face shone like the sun as he ascended to the Father. When He comes back, He will be riding on His White Stallion like a knight in shining armor.

    January 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Lynx48

      So, let's keep our eyes on the steak and not the peas!

      January 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Really??

      So sayeth men, who created and wrote the story.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Kim

      And yet, he supposedly had nice enough clothes for the soldiers to gamble over even after he was whipped in them. Fine perfume for his feet, plenty of wine and rich food at the tax collector's homes. A bunch of expensive gifts given at his birth. Accusations of his being a drunk and glutton. I think people have Jesus mixed up with the Baptist, who actually did have long hair, and lived a meager life out in the wilds. Jesus could have been about as poor, and as tough as, as your average televangelist.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • kutty

      well said dear! Iam so glad that you know the GLORY OF JESUSCHRIST! AMEN AND AMEN

      January 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  5. jake the snack robbins

    I heard that he had skidmarks on his drawers.

    January 13, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • SK Dick

      YOU ARE RICHER THAN YOU THINK rbc.

      Sir get a real JOB.............. Got too much time on you or get a wife if you can keep her...

      January 13, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  6. cuzIsaidso

    Jesus, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times. Get your dirty, dirty hands off of women's reproductive organs.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  7. josh

    U peeps are sick talking about jesus so negatively. U will be the first in line when judgement day arrives and will be sorry for what u said

    January 13, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • Brian

      If Jesus is like what is described above, and I do believe he was, the bible says so even, I bet he's up there laughing along at the jokes and cracking some of his own. The bible comments on Jesus's humor, and one of the tennets of having a sense of humor is being able to laugh and make fun of your self.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  8. teddy

    HE'S NOT THE MESSIAH. HE'S A VERY NAUGHTY BOY.

    January 13, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  9. Ace Jimenez

    Jesus is not God, though he embodied God, as well as us, he asked God for everything he wanted for God's glory and not his, when said to Jesus 'good master , Jesus replied why call me good there is none good but God. The trinity I refer to is the m

    January 13, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  10. John Patterson

    His righteous anger would be outrage against Wall Street, the Ultra Rich, the Bankers, the money launderers and the Jews (again).

    January 13, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • SK Dick

      My HAT OFF for you . Greatly put.

      January 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Louis

      I know a lot of Jewish people, and the few who are well off are so because of hard work and a sound education ethic.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  11. Juan C.

    Antichrist

    January 13, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  12. christopher reid

    So what if Jesus came amongst us and said : Follow Me : would we, or do we now, put all things aside and follow Him.

    January 13, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Jane

      If Jesus returned today, with a message of kindness and compassion, showed up at one of the "rich folk churches", he would be run out of town, again. By the same people that claim to worship him.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • SK Dick

      Well said I think the Churches will find it unbearable if Jesus came back. They will loose their BUSINESS and will certainly try to eliminate HIM AGAIN. Its all about MONEY.

      January 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Louis

      If he said "Put down your guns and fatty foods, and follow me" he'd head a pretty short line all through the Bible Belt.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  13. Rohn Timm

    He would be just as critical today against the false religious systems that call him unscriptural names as "God the Son" and refer to the Holy Spirit as "God the Holy Spirit." These false names were made up to lend authenticity to a false belief. God the Father, according to Jesus and Paul, was the only God. The Fathe is the Spirit. There aren't 3 separate persons, there is the Father/Spirit and Jesus, who is the Son of God. Even Satan referred to him as the "Son of God." Only the Trinitarians dare make up names and add to God's Word.

    January 13, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  14. Viola

    Johnnie Moore, you really need some prayers for your soul.

    January 13, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  15. Viola

    It's so sad that some people call themselves christians but don't know what the bible says. What is the point of talking about our Lord that way and still call themselves christians. Do not let Lucifer use you to talk about the Lord that way.

    January 13, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Louis

      I guess that you don't believe that Jesus was fully human then? Real humans have bodily functions, genitals, dirt and germs on their hands, especially back then.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  16. Beth

    First of all, because Jesus was and is fully GOD, He therefore is perfect and holy. Nothing that is perfect and holy can be touched by earthly disease or illness – "on earth as it is in Heaven". No illness, (which is brought on by satan), could touch our Savior because HE when He walked on earth just as when He lives in Heaven, He is holy and perfect and pure. Nothing unholy, or imperfect or unpure could touch Him -on earth as in Heaven. Just as He rebuked the illness from others, He instantly would rebuke it from coming near and it would not touch His body. JESUS is and was and always will be HOLY, PERFECT and PURE. If you are saying that He could be sick, then why did He shed His blood on the cross for us "by my stripes you are healed". If He was sick on earth, then all His healings for others, all His promises are for naught, and I know personally, having received many healings, that HE is the provider and healer. I suggest you reread the New Testament and come to a clearer and more thorough understanding of Who our Savior truly IS. You can receive that healing too!! May God bless you and enlighten your understanding.

    January 13, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Preacher

      Jesus was a man of sorrow aquainted Isaiah 53:3 (not desired to be looked upon) Jesus was a human just like the rest of us, sent from God. Remember in Gensis God said "Let US make a man in our own image" he was speaking to Jesus at that time. (Now for your unbelievers that is just simple facts) Jesus was certainly grungy but he came to set examples. He was found eating and drinking and they called him a drunk. What was Jesus setting an example of here? That the Son of Man was meek and lowly and knew he had to mingle witht he sinners if he wanted to make a lasting impression that one day they would believe in Him. People overlook the humanity of the Lord. Jesus never sinned and that must remain clear. Every one who mocks him will soon stand before him. Those whose names are not found in the lambs book of life will be cast into hell where the fire is not quenched. Reliving every moment we rejected God. So why take that chance? I'd rather die believing and find out there is nothing than Die unbelieving and realize I should have believed.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Brian

      By the bibles definition, to be human, is to be flawed. So either he was fully human and flawed, or he wasn't human. Can't have it both ways. Well you can, but only if you deny the truth.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  17. Bob

    Jesus divested Himself of His divine authority to be a man yet in the baptism of the Holy Spirit He had all the power of God again to do the miracles He did. He is our example, greater works than these you will do also. How loving and wonderful God truly is to bestow this gift on man.

    January 13, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • Louis

      Yet, didn't he supposedly drive out devils by calling upon his divine authority?

      January 13, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  18. Sarah

    Loved it! All very accurate, all of these points sheds a more relatable light on Jesus and help the common be person more connected to him.

    How Jesus is portrayed in art bugs me SO much!! The man was born in the Middle East, for crying out loud. He was most likely your typical Arab – very dark skinned, and had thick and dark curly hair (and probably bathed infrequently, like everyone else back in the day). There's like a 2% chance that he was fair skinned/haired and had long silky aryan locks as is always portrayed! If that image is what people would rather pray to than so be it, but I just think it's misguided.

    January 13, 2013 at 4:24 am |
    • Sarah

      **shed a more relatable light. (sorry for the typo!)

      January 13, 2013 at 4:25 am |
    • Lordis

      Sarah why don't you read your bible instead of this dribble then maybe you would really see the truth. Its obvious you never have and don't even know what the bible says about Jesus or even the Apostles. Why would you rely on someones lies rather than go to the truth? Probably because your not a Christian or only one in name all who seek the truth will find it those who don't are lost. The Bible tells exactly who Jesus is, do you realize that the demons trembled when they saw Jesus in the flesh? They knew who He was and knew Him as the Son of God without Him having to speak a word. How is it that while the Bible is not exact on the way He looks, we should have a relationship with Him to be able to recognize Him at the moment we hear Him.

      January 13, 2013 at 7:52 am |
  19. coq

    not bad. in spite of its assumptions, your analysis gives the Christian narrative some teeth.

    January 13, 2013 at 4:07 am |
  20. manish

    I surprised; is there any need of of discussion on it.. Stop it.

    January 13, 2013 at 4:02 am |
    • Louis

      If you find this topic too uncomfortable to discuss then you really don't believe that Jesus was fully human, right?

      January 13, 2013 at 2:40 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.