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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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.”

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. Anu Antony

    This is so fuuny to read about like this of Jesus Christ!
    If he not a living God then it not just we worship him just like that..life that he gives staying with him is awsome.

    i am not here to fight bcas Jesus dont like fighting....

    i am sure the person who wrote about Jesus so bad is one of the unhapy person on earth..

    Dont worry..ask forgiveness from Jesus and he will accept you back..

    He is a loving and true God and true father who keep forgiving his kids like you..

    God bless!


    May 24, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  2. White Warrior

    That might be an exception for you...Well you didnt disagree with the rest I stated...so whats so bad about loving your neighbor and doing good...being humble and meek, thinking of others first...I dont understand..really....

    May 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  3. White Warrior

    these atheists have very small minds filled up with self hatred and fustration.....thats why they attack Christians....if they think we are hateful etc., then why be like us....LOL we got your number atheists.....too easy to figure you all out.... you have no good desires in you but to destroy...its all negative.....you must be a bunch of miserable people....i will pray for you, you all need prayers very very badly....

    May 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      An atheist saying, "I don't believe as you do, and I don't feel you should be able to tell me how to live" is not an 'attack.' It's disagreement. There are no atheists attacking christians.

      May 13, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  4. Science

    That red devil with the funky horns...........and his partner the fairy in the sky.........did NOT create US !

    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life


    Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.

    Human Evolution



    Easy to do !

    For all creationists and ID believers...............IT only takes minutes to figure IT out. No fairy in the sky needed !

    New Device Can Extract Human DNA With Full Genetic Data in Minutes

    May 6, 2013 — Take a swab of saliva from your mouth and within minutes your DNA could be ready for analysis and genome sequencing with the help of a new device.


    Foot note............ethics + morals = really tough on religion !

    Facts work best for teaching children !

    Evolution wins hands down ..........time for god(s) to get the HELL out of the way................so humanity can evolve !

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young



    Oops do not forget about the chondrites !

    May 13, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Michael

      why is evolution an argument against a creator? You need to look into the field of metaphysics for true arguments about life. The nature of the (anthropometric) universe proves that a beginning is inevitable. Reason alone – a contradiction in itself – cannot find an argument against a creator. To exclude a higher being is just wrong, no not wrong, naive or arrogant.

      How do YOU explain the existence of life?

      May 21, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
  5. Science

    Free speech helps to educate the masses..............POLITICIANS TOO !

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.


    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !..................Creationists...........ID believers and christians !

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.


    Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!

    The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic


    Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

    Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.


    Education works for children

    Where do morals come from?.............the answer is not the bible read and find out !

    By Kelly Murray, CNN


    Gravity is not up for debate ! ............E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas..........that do not lie or sin !!!...


    May 6, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  6. vic powers

    the vitriolic posts of the hate filled atheists on here amaze me, yet they are but a taste of the future we Christina will face in the end times, when we will be turned over to the authorities by family members who think they are doing GOD's will by doing so... we MUST stand for HIM, no matter the punishment or ridicule we face... how small is it compared to Christ's suffering?... man up, did you expect anything less?... remember, to those who are lost what we preach is as foolishness... our job is to lovingly speak the Word, not to condemn... Jesus will judge...

    May 5, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  7. Nor decay

    A sermon by Billy Graham
    The Bible says, “He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off and not without remedy” [see Proverbs 29:1].

    You never know. To some of you who go out on the slick highways this afternoon, this may be the last sermon you will ever hear. In every crusade we have ever conducted anywhere, there have been people who have come to the meeting in good health and never came back because they were dead in the next few hours through an accident, or a heart attack, or something else.

    We never know when our moment is coming. Maybe God spoke to you this afternoon, and your heart is in danger of being hardened. Some of you are older people; some of you are younger people. The Bible says once you hear the Gospel and do nothing about it, you are in danger of being hardening your heart.

    But, last of all, there were some that made a decision [see Acts 17:34]. They received Christ and went their way rejoicing. I am going to ask you today to receive Him. I am not asking you this afternoon to join some special church. I’m asking you today to give your life to Christ.

    You may be a member of a choir. I don’t know who you are or what you are, but you want to give your life to Christ on this opening Sunday afternoon. I’m going to ask you to do a hard thing, because coming to Christ is not easy. So many people have made it too easy. Jesus went to the cross and died in your place. Certainly, you can come a few steps from where you are sitting and stand here, quietly and reverently, and with bowed head. And say, “I need God; I need Christ. I want to be forgiven of my sins. I want a new life, and I want to start a new direction today.”

    May 3, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Pole dancing for Jesus

      blah blah

      May 3, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  8. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses

    Gravity is not up for debate !

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before


    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.


    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young


    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life


    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.


    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

    Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.


    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute


    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

    May 3, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • vic powers

      GOD scoffs at man's knowledge...

      May 5, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  9. Tristan


    April 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Syed

      Jesus was not God or son of God, who was a messenger he preached the oneness of God just like Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, and Muhammad. All u submitted their wills to the one true God, one true Father. He is not son of God because it is impossible and unholy for God to have a son. Salam

      May 3, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
  10. #gospels

    16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

    April 30, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  11. stephenayers42

    Reblogged this on Either/Or and commented:
    Awesome article, by Johnnie Moore via CNN, on the humanity aspect of Christ which Christians often forget about, or tend to "clean him up".

    April 28, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  12. touchinstinct

    Interesting article. I never really thought about Jesus like that. I always had this image that he was a manicured and pedicured man. Great article, and as for the comments, well, I have rather enjoyed the volley of spirited debate. Allow me, if you will, to give my opinion on the matter. The way as it stands, every religious zealot that is adamant in their ways and beliefs will not sway from them. It recall a time when I was a devout Baptist, and a single memory comes to mind, when my Mormon friend and I were discussing beliefs. I could not convince him otherwise that I was correct in my belief, and he was not any more successful than I. In the present day, I am no longer a Christian, although I do like some of the messages of Jesus and have applied some to my life.

    Throughout my years of being a Possibilitist (something I coined to describe a person who believes in the possibility of a god or gods, but does not cling to any one doctrinal faith) I have learned that it is extremely difficult for religious people to discuss their beliefs without proselytizing, and atheists cannot hold a conversation about religion without trying to disprove it. It is interesting to see then, the reactions to certain statements. Christians, primarily, when facing a debate about their beliefs, see themselves as being persecuted, as Jesus said that his followers will be hated persecuted because of their faith. So when you're "persecuting," it only makes them feel stronger about their beliefs because it makes Jesus' words more truer. Anyway, fire away, I want to read more.

    April 9, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • NClaw441

      You posted in part: "I have learned that it is extremely difficult for religious people to discuss their beliefs without proselytizing..."
      I would agree with you on this. Christians' faith requires them to share their faith with others as part of the Great Commission to "go ye therefor unto all nations..." This is simply part of their free exercise of religion. I try to do it as well, but fail often. If you truly believe as Christians believe, you'd want to share it with others, not unlike (although far less important than) having discovered a great restaurant. Some won't believe you, others won't like it and still others are so set in their ways that they'd never consider it.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Saraswati

      I have found my urge to debate has diminished significantly as I have grown older. In "real world" contexts I rarely debate people with a stong view, selection very carefully the rare instances when it is worth while. I think when we have had similar conversations for decades we learn to read people and to guess more accuarately as to whether 1) they are likely to contribute new ideas to our thinking (increasingly rare as we get older), 2) are likely to be receptive to change and 3) are really likely to benefit or to benefit society by any chamge we can offer.

      April 16, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Science

      Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

      Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

      Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
      bears his name as the “God particle.”


      More facts/truth if needed !

      April 17, 2013 at 5:57 am |
  13. clarity

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over 4,000,000 members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    Some believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Some believe Obama is the Anti-Christ.

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain people or positions. As we read about each day, this unnatural practice continues to cause problems for the religious institutions that advise/employ it. Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but pretend not to understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create more extreme divisions as time goes by, constantly subjecting others in its crossfire.

    April 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  14. Kilto

    There are a lot of stupid Atheists and Agnostics on here who have nothing better to do than to go on Christian articles and bash all of them. They are all afraid of the truth. God is real and he is a loving God. God made everything and anything. He even knew you before you were born. Why don't Atheists and Agnostics go to Islamic websites and bash them too? I have never seen it before. Get a life you guys. Stop bashing people for their beliefs. Why are you even on here anyway? You claim to not believe in anything which is an oxymoron is it not?

    April 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • clarity

      Did you take too many of your simple pills today, Kilto?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • clarity

      I'll tell you what, Kilto. Since you're having trouble understanding simple things, I'll post some of my gripes above and then you can give an explanation for them. Maybe that will calm you down and get you to think just a little bit. Okee dokee?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I do not claim to believe in nothing...that is another one of your false presumptions.

      Why is it that your religion cannot withstand some scrutiny. You try to make it sound like bashing when someone tells you to provide some evidence of your claims, then throw a hissy fit like you are being picked on.

      Provide some evidence of your supernatural claims, or you will be ridiculed for believing in something without a sinigle shred of evidence of any gods existing.

      While you are at it, you deny Zeus, and Odin, and Quetzlcoatl..why? they exist just as much as your god. Tell me why you have chosen your one in 10000 god, why did you choose that one and not any of the thousands of others?

      April 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Bob

      Kilto, for all the horrid crimes committed in the name of your religion over the past 20 centuries, and all the hate and bigotry that Christianity is responsible for, and all the while never delivering on its promises, I'm surprised that the backlash against your nasty superstition isn't much worse.

      Get used to it. There will be more coming until your vicious god myth goes fully into the dustbin of history like so many thousands of others.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  15. Roland Dubois

    Atheists are not as bad as false Christianities.

    April 5, 2013 at 4:28 am |

    SHUT UP SATAN!!!!!

    March 31, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  17. WeAreLegion

    There is no god; there never was. It's just a legend. A kind of dumb legend.

    March 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Equalizer

      He who does not believe in God or his son will surely die the first and second death. Look it up.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Bob

      equalizer, that would be your nasty sky fairy being excessively murderous and vindictive yet again. No thanks. Shove your disgusting god myth up your aft end.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  18. Marvin

    Get thee behind me satan, you and your specious arguments.

    March 21, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
  19. Elke

    1b0BEST YOUR LIFE Change Your Life NOW! Mastermind Group I was recommended this web site by my coiusn. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble. You are wonderful! Thanks! your article about BEST YOUR LIFE Change Your Life NOW! Mastermind GroupBest Regards Veronica

    March 21, 2013 at 1:46 am |
  20. Liel

    God please work a miracle in the lives of these atheists so that their eyes may be opened to see you and experience your love.

    March 20, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • The Great Cosmic Telephone Operator

      We're sorry, but there is no one by that name there.

      March 20, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      For me, that's one of the huge inconstencies with religion. You state that god is omnipotent and omniscient, created everything we're aware of in 6 days. Then if such a god exists wouldn't it have created atheists? If such a god exists and it didn't like atheists wouldn't it know what to do without you asking?

      March 20, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
      • Dani

        God created man and gave him free will.

        October 12, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • john wayne atkinson

      " Praise GOD" LIEL! the time is near we are at the door an this will only get worst for US! THE CHILDREN OF OUR FATHER, GOD THE CREATER OF HEAVEN AN EARTH THE MOON AN STARS GOD DOESNT TEMPT US THATS THE WORK OF THE "santa" father in heaven i ask for forgiveness of my sin father as well as all these others whom are blastphemers, father help us who are still with you, we pray for thoses who r so blind to see there nwalking RIGHT NOW it the pit of fire an who r so decieved that there is no hope i pray for them i pary that they can be awaked but father i know wat you've left me hear for my salvation an wisdon, an faith tells me every day thats a prayer wasted, that i could have prayed for a child that was wickedly hurt or tourcherd Father in Heaven i am ur veseil us me as u see fit, for your glory your will be done! an Father GOD in Heaven I PRAY FOR MY FRIEND HERE, "LIEL" GIVE THEM HOPE, GIVE THEM PEACE GIVE THEM YOUR LIGHT GOD AN GIVE THEM FAITH IN YOU THAT UR WILL BE DONE I PRAY THATWE DNT LET THIS DISCURAGE US AN LOSE OUR WAY! ALL THIS I PRAY HEAVENLY FATHER IN "JESUS" NAME I ASK AN PRAY "AMEN, AMEN"

      May 5, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107
About this blog

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.