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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. True Dichtomoy

    Now Faith is Being Sure of What We Hope For, and Certain of What We Do Not See.

    Hebrews 11:1

    February 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • IOW

      Wishful thinking.

      February 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • True Dichtomoy

      Your life is based on wishful thinking otherwise you would not be able to iterate from one moment to the next.

      February 22, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      faith is a drug

      February 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  2. Bill S

    To the author: do you write this for pleasure or some scholarly advancement? If you had any faith in Jesus Christ or God, you write about the promise of eternal life in heaven and the service work we should do here on earth. Signed a happy evangelical!

    February 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • dffdf

      Your god was a dirty hobo....

      February 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • sam stone

      do you seriously desire ETERNAL LIFE?

      seems it would be boring after a few hundred years, not to mention thousands or tens of thousands

      February 23, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  3. True Dichtomoy

    Everyday we commit to small acts of faith when we go forward with decisions and choices based on an incomplete set of information.

    February 22, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  4. Hockey an

    Ed, Bob et al... Don't be afraid to pick up a book, oops it happens to be he Bible! Who knew... You don't have to believe in any of it ... But I challenge you to reaf one chapter, Proverbs... Read them and learn what it's like to live by some type of moral and ethical code.... Or is it too much to be anything than you are?

    February 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • End Religion

      If you're going to base your life's moral code on fiction, The Hobbit is a better choice.

      February 21, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Just because a book contains wisdom does not mean that it is wise to believe all of the book.

      February 21, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • dffdf

      The Hobbit is waaay too complicated; I prefer the three little pics. Remember the pig that built his house out of sticks.... that is my God thy Lord God, Rule of all that is GOOD.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • frankb2910

      Why don't you Hockey an pick up a copy of God is not great by Christopher Hitchens.

      February 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Gadarenian

    hey lucy

    go to hell

    February 21, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Lucyphr

      I know you, Gadarenian. I know you.

      February 22, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  6. DIXONlh

    Did you mention that he had blood all over him at the end? And sweat and perhaps tears? This is the God that I serve. The "dirty, dirty" God that died for me. And for everyone!

    February 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • peterz

      I thought you said That was the Jesus You Served. God was to explain the creation not was for someone dying for someone, two thousand years ago. The feeling was just an imagination. Maybe it was good for someone trying to be good but convincing factor was nonsense.

      February 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Lucyphr

      Why are these comments not written in English? Stringing words together does not a sentence make!

      If the written word is an insight into the world of the author's thought, I am terrified of peterz.

      February 21, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Gadarenian

      Lucyphr
      The single statement which goes furthest to undermining your argument is when you impose your faith, and yes- FAITH, upon others.

      First, there is no reliable evidence that Jesus existed. The written accounts in the gospels are all compromised and there is no basic chain of custody in such writings.

      It follows that if it is unlikely that Jesus existed, then it is unlikely that he died. Moreover, it is unlikely that he died for "us".

      Faith is another work for sucker. Faith is the belief in that for which there is no credible evidence. It is fiction and, dare I say, not unlike a delusional endeavor. The deification of this fantasy and its mass appeal, be it voluntary or imposed by threat or con-men of the cloth, does not give the story any more credence.

      Forgive the rational among us who fail to be suckered into a cult that became a hit based on political whims, the plundering and massacre of regions and people and the pursuit of wealth.

      ur credible lucy.

      February 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • sam stone

      he died for you?

      his daddy/himself set up this schtick where there is a blood sacrifice

      his daddy did not need to do this

      he could have forgiven with it

      yet he chose have his son whacked

      do you desire to be with this sociopath?

      February 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  7. Bambino03mingus

    First off since you are so learned in the studies of Christ, please use his real name, Yeshua. All but 2 of the twelve disciples were also teenagers. Please do some research and not just make up stories and degrade others . Whether or not you understand, show respect for those who do, you see, he died for you as well. Yeshua was not unclean, he bathed just like everyone else. You clearly are a non believer, I still pray for you and that someday you will accept God's love and not ridicule that Love. What a sad life you lead living to bash the truth you refuse to see. Peace.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Lucyphr

      The single statement which goes furthest to undermining your argument is when you impose your faith, and yes- FAITH, upon others.

      First, there is no reliable evidence that Jesus existed. The written accounts in the gospels are all compromised and there is no basic chain of custody in such writings.

      It follows that if it is unlikely that Jesus existed, then it is unlikely that he died. Moreover, it is unlikely that he died for "us".

      Faith is another work for sucker. Faith is the belief in that for which there is no credible evidence. It is fiction and, dare I say, not unlike a delusional endeavor. The deification of this fantasy and its mass appeal, be it voluntary or imposed by threat or con-men of the cloth, does not give the story any more credence.

      Forgive the rational among us who fail to be suckered into a cult that became a hit based on political whims, the plundering and massacre of regions and people and the pursuit of wealth.

      That's a tough example to follow. Doesn't fit my concept of the spiritual ideal.

      February 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • divine archadia

      "First, there is no reliable evidence that Jesus existed" prove it. you can't. beat it lucie

      February 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • PdelC

      "he bathed like everyone else." Pretty sure "everyone else" did not really bathe all that often, as bathing often is a relatively new concept. He was probably dirty and stinky, was is that so bad?

      February 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  8. doug

    Well done Jonnie.
    "come, let us reason together, sayeth the Lord"

    February 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  9. Gadarenian

    "Ed
    Who is this "Jesus"? Should I have heard of him?"

    nah. who u takin bout? never heard of himj, nether. heard of big bad bob from boston. b u?

    February 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  10. Gadarenian

    "End Religion
    Your gods and prophets either didn't exist or were just kooks looking for attention for their delusions, like you. Get over it."

    yo, make up my mind, girlfriend. which it is?

    nice try

    February 21, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  11. Ed

    Who is this "Jesus"? Should I have heard of him?

    February 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  12. boofer

    nothing to be afraid of? then christians need to stop trying to tell everyone else how to live and what to do with their bodies. it is the ultimate contradiction, christians are so afraid that they are constantly trying to convince and rule. no one really believes in god...not even the pope. why would he travel in bullet proof glass? he doesnt trust in god, because in everyone's heart of hearts they know that religion is a myth.

    February 21, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Gadarenian

      preach it goof. amen baby.

      o, u should stop telling christians what to do, too. u is worse than them. can u dig it?

      February 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • The Truth

      "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, 2 do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. A dream comes when there are many cares, 3 and many words mark the speech of a fool.". Ecclesiastes 5: 1-3 NIV

      February 23, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • End Religion

      Jesus never existed:
      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/09/my-take-a-word-to-christians-be-nice/comment-page-51/#comment-2173770

      February 23, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  13. Science

    Creationists are you the generated ghost this new device has created ?

    Engineering 'Ghost' Objects: Breakthrough in Scattering Illusion

    Feb. 19, 2013 — A team at the NUS Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering led by Dr Qiu Cheng-Wei has come out with an optical device to "engineer" ghosts.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219090643.htm

    Peace

    February 21, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  14. Science

    Separation of church and state

    New science standards created by 26 states (majority) for 2013 and beyond,, .. It is called Stem standards for public schools....

    No god(s) required
    By the way creatoin/ID LOST DEPUNKED at the Dover trial in 2005

    Peace

    No god(s) required for graduation n the US

    February 21, 2013 at 6:59 am |
  15. NAUSH

    Jesus was a prophet.. God send him to give the message to the people....
    --
    short story ..

    Every sunday a missionary used to visit an arab muslim and preach the bible saying that Jesus is God and he died for all our sins..
    Next sunday the arab told his servant to whisper in his ear when the missionary arrived...
    When the missionary arrived the servant whispered in the arab's ears..
    Arab : ohh no dats a bad news
    Missionary : wat happened??
    Arab : Just heard that Gabriel the angel died..
    Missionary : Are u out of ur mind ... Angels dont die..
    Arab : Yeah right! angels dont die... And you telll me God died...

    Please people open ur eyes.... Jesus was a man like alll of us.. but did come with a divine message from God.. he was a messenger just like prophet Mohommad and we need to follow their message.

    February 21, 2013 at 4:01 am |
    • End Religion

      Your gods and prophets either didn't exist or were just kooks looking for attention for their delusions, like you. Get over it.

      February 21, 2013 at 4:07 am |
  16. Filippwsolar1874

    Rather valuable piece

    February 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  17. Awesome

    http://m.youtube.com/results?q=by%20faith%20getty#/watch?v=2Kc9O4sGUCY

    February 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Awesome

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Kc9O4sGUCY&feature=player_detailpage

      February 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Ed

      This video is mindless drivel. The music is wretched, and the lyrics could be written by a second grader. How any truly thinking person can consider it "awesome" only proves that all religiotards are mindless sheep that fail to critically evaluate the world around them.

      February 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  18. Pookie

    Bob,

    I completely believe what you say is true!!!!

    February 20, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  19. Bob

    Speed of light changing? yes that would make all time predictions in science false interesting
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bTm-g_riXrw

    February 20, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Science

      Education works Bob

      NOVA Earth From Space

      Published on Feb 14, 2013

      Earth From Space" is a groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth. Viewers witness how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine "waterfall" off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how the sun's heating up of the southern Atlantic gives birth to a colossally powerful hurricane. From the microscopic world of water molecules vaporizing over the ocean to the magnetic field that is bigger than Earth itself, the show reveals the astonishing beauty and complexity of our dynamic planet.

      Category

      Science & Technology

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPRofVIQ5io

      Thank you Nova

      Peace

      February 20, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Science

      \
      Creationists are predictable too. Bob

      How Predictable Is Evolution?

      Feb. 19, 2013 — Understanding how and why diversification occurs is important for understanding why there are so many species on Earth. In a new study published on 19 February in the open access journal PLOS Biology, researchers show that similar – or even identical – mutations can occur during diversification in completely separate populations of E. coli evolving in different environments over more than 1000 generations. Evolution, therefore, can be surprisingly predictable.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219172155.htm

      Peace

      February 20, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • james kiely

      Jesus was probably a slovenly,dirty "hippie" like most of the "clean-cut,"self-righteous "christians" who purport to follow him detest;he proably smoked cannibis & the oil was probably used to annoint the :annointed one:But mostly, he was probably just one of many "messiahs",charasmatic teachers,etc., who were preaching in the area at that time.He was officially "deified" by Emporer Constantine in order to unite his empire & thus the "legend".;today,he would have been locked up or jailed for being a homeless,street person who thought he was GOD..You know the old joke..."How do we know Jesus was Jewish?" He had the same trade as his father,he never left home until he was 30...and his mother thought he was God !!!!!! Regards....James.

      February 20, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  20. Bob

    How is it that Christians have a open mind but science and atheists do not even when fellow colleges challenge the thoughts now accepted as fact? We as Christians look at the universe and even into the things of God and take it on faith. This is good and bad sometimes when challenged we cannot give a good accounting for why we believe the way we do. Our witness is a good start but the other is look into the things of God it will bolster your faith give you the ability to challenge those that supposedly know and ask them some hard questions not to intimidate like they try with us but to say its science not fact. God is the only fact and truth all else is second. We as Christians have nothing to be afraid of start exploring the wonders of our God both in the creation of the world and in a relationship in what He offers us and wants for and from us. Its a life long satisfying pursuit.

    February 20, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • Phillip

      Remember people this is coming from someone who trolls this blog day and night, doesn't have a real life or friends. Yes, you too can become a loser troll like Bob.

      February 20, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • sam stone

      If you have nothing to be afraid of, blob, insert your sidearm in your mouth.....

      February 20, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Pookie

      Bob,

      I have a firm faith and trust in God. I believe what you say is truth! I do not need to know how the earth was formed or why. I just need to believe that God did it.

      February 20, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Saraswati

      The trick is in deciding where to be open, and that is where our disagreements lie. Nayone who thinks people are open to all ideas all the time doesn't understand basic psychology. Everyone functions on a set of premises that they don't regularly question, and everyone has open another set of question. The trick is in picking the right questions to keep open. Even among those who don't believe in the Christian bible there is a wide range of what ideas on does and doesn't keep open. Some may still leave open the idea that Buddhists are fundamentally "right" in their understanding of the universe, while others may not. This, for example, is something about which far fewer Christians have an opene mind.

      February 21, 2013 at 7:17 am |
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