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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. Pete

    People are well aware that you are a troll posting under multiple handles trying to sell your lame site because it's total junk.

    Wow you are pathetic.!!!

    November 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  2. Pete

    People are well aware that you are a troll posting under multiple handles trying to sell your lame site because it's total junk.

    Wow you are pathetic!!

    November 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  3. True American

    I heard Jesus died on the cross for all the children's salads he tossed.

    October 27, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  4. derek

    such a poor soul this american college false teacher listening poor kid the writer of this article is.. 🙁

    October 7, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  5. Amator Omnium

    Look at Aquinas's five proofs on the existence of God then you may fight my faith.

    The First Way: Argument from Motion

    Our senses prove that some things are in motion.

    Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion.

    Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion.

    Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another).

    Therefore nothing can move itself.

    Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else.

    The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum.

    Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

    The Second Way: Argument from Efficient Causes

    We perceive a series of efficient causes of things in the world.

    Nothing exists prior to itself.

    Therefore nothing is the efficient cause of itself.

    If a previous efficient cause does not exist, neither does the thing that results.

    Therefore if the first thing in a series does not exist, nothing in the series exists.

    The series of efficient causes cannot extend ad infinitum into the past, for then there would be no things existing now.

    Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

    The Third Way: Argument from Possibility and Necessity (Reductio argument)

    We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, that come into being and go out of being i.e., contingent beings.

    Assume that every being is a contingent being.

    For each contingent being, there is a time it does not exist.

    Therefore it is impossible for these always to exist.

    Therefore there could have been a time when no things existed.

    Therefore at that time there would have been nothing to bring the currently existing contingent beings into existence.

    Therefore, nothing would be in existence now.

    We have reached an absurd result from assuming that every being is a contingent being.

    Therefore not every being is a contingent being.

    Therefore some being exists of its own necessity, and does not receive its existence from another being, but rather causes them. This all men speak of as God.

    The Fourth Way: Argument from Gradation of Being

    There is a gradation to be found in things: some are better or worse than others.

    Predications of degree require reference to the “uttermost” case (e.g., a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest).

    The maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus.

    Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

    The Fifth Way: Argument from Design

    We see that natural bodies work toward some goal, and do not do so by chance.

    Most natural things lack knowledge.

    But as an arrow reaches its target because it is directed by an archer, what lacks intelligence achieves goals by being directed by something intelligence.

    Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

    All for Christ, all for the Kingdom,
    Amator Omnium.

    September 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  6. Eugene Choo

    The end is near. Jesus will come soon. Become a Christian while you still have time! Please don't regret not becoming one in the future!
    Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and he is the only way to heaven! Try proving the bible wrong...you can't...
    When you really accept Jesus into your heart, there is a peace that no other thing can satisfy. There is no fear, and lots of love! Also, there is lots of evidence that Christianity is real. You can search it up in the internet, or ask a pastor at your local church. The bible is history! 🙂

    September 15, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • Eugene Choo

      I'm talking to non-christians

      September 15, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  7. Johnnie Moore

    Johnnie, I am a Christian (I believe and worship the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit) and completely agree with you. Jesus had to be fully man so He would be a compassionate high priest.

    September 13, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  8. Mims W.

    i bet Jesus told the BEST jokes, too!!!

    I wonder if he was good at sports or a fast runner - I realize these are things that we esteem and Jesus was w/o esteem; so maybe not - but I'll still be asking him to play 1 on 1 when His kingdom COMES.

    Where his teeth straight or crooked?

    Thanks for writing an article about Jesus.

    August 25, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  9. Kate

    And what author of this vomit is trying to say exactly? what is the point of this "masterpiece"?

    July 29, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Dan

      The answer is in the article. Your rhetoric makes you look stupid.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
      • Johnnie Moore

        Good work Dan.

        September 13, 2013 at 10:56 am |
        • Dan

          Good article, Johnnie. It's too bad many will refuse to see the rare knowledge in it. And for that very reason they'll never find true spirituality. Jesus was deliberately that way to reveal that even the most common mortal could be uncommon just by a true, and complete, desire to do so. I know you're not using "dirty" here as a degenerative term, just objectively descriptive.

          September 13, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  10. theinexperiencedyouth

    Reblogged this on uggggh.

    July 28, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  11. Daniel

    AS A BELIEVER My Take is: 1 Peter 1:18-19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

    ANYONE TO CALL HIM DIRTY, I WOULD CALL UNWISE OR A (FOOL)

    1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    July 17, 2013 at 6:01 am |
  12. Chief Executive

    Interesting article....Opinionated, want to actually learn something....www.Jw.Org

    July 16, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  13. Religion = Mythology

    Despite the Christian belief... Jesus Christ was not a real person and religion is a lie. The end.

    July 9, 2013 at 5:01 am |
    • Kate

      Then you need educate yourself on history, b/c in romans chronicles of that time they mentioned Jesus, so it is a historic fact at least.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Loving GOD

      Son of God, you can Choose from thousands, but have you truly felt the unimaginable Peace, Joy and Love of God in your own soul/skin, I have and nothing or anything in this world compares to it...but we have to open our HEARTS to him and you will experience the true transformation when you detach from this things of man and follow God' will, he will respond to you at this time not MAN's time. Some of us want it fast and our way, that is not how it works, we have to endure...many things first so we can spiritually mature and help our loving sisters and brothers like you. God Bless You.

      August 10, 2013 at 6:35 am |
  14. Jenni Lurtz

    Infectious pathogens include some viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, multicellular parasites, and aberrant proteins known as prions. These pathogens are the cause of disease epidemics, in the sense that without the pathogen, no infectious epidemic occurs.,:,-

    Most recently released posting provided by our own internet page
    http://www.healthfitnessbook.comda

    June 23, 2013 at 4:54 am |
  15. Leena Schrier

    Adult head lice are roughly 2-3 mm long. Head lice infest the head and neck and attach their eggs to the base of the hair shaft. Lice move by crawling; they cannot hop or fly. Head lice infestation, or pediculosis, is spread most commonly by close person-to-person contact. Dogs, cats, and other pets do not play a role in the transmission of human lice.",-.

    With best regards
    http://wellnessdigest.cotw

    June 21, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
  16. dug

    Test your Faith! Read entire link. You may never believe in God again! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAURq_ouYLc

    June 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  17. Rachel

    The love of God reaches out to all mankind, Jesus (God with us) is the prime example of the greatest love ever bestowed on mankind!

    June 7, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Science

      Hey Chadie

      The Light...is...Science Wins God Loses | Facebook................from the little blue box.........think outside the box.

      https://www.facebook.com/ScienceWinsGodLoses

      "Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you ... are all over it. ... that says I must submit to him or suffer agonizing punishment for all time?

      8,000,000 results Any time

      June 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
      • Amator Omnium

        Think for a second.

        Humans make very complex machines called computers of which i am using currently and without my help it would not be able to operate. Correct?
        Computers can not simply be made by nature or at random which many say happened to humans whom made the computers and thus are much more complicated then the thing that they made and can control and have a good understanding of.
        Therefore how could a human be created by random or by chance except by some intervention of some God? Through other happenings I have come to understand that this God is our lord Jesus Christ who came to earth about 4 B.C. If you would like to look at some of the swaying factors for me and my faith, type in this link. http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharist/mir/lanciano.html. This is only a brief overview of the miracle and mystery of what happened at Lanciano. If you would like to continue this debate reply to my comment. May our Lord bless your lives.

        All for Christ, all for the Kingdom,
        Amator Omnium

        September 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Science

      Hey bible thumpers/creationists and the ICR..........................it is BS

      god(s) did NOT create US................the truth !

      Destiny & DNA......................World Science Festival

      http://new.livestream.com/accounts/4044190/events/2110223

      High Diversity of Flying Reptiles in England 110 Million Years Ago

      June 12, 2013 — Brazilian paleontologists Taissa Rodrigues, of the Federal University of Espirito Santo, and Alexander W. A. Kellner, of the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, have just presented the most extensive review yet available of toothed pterosaurs from the Cretaceous of England. The study features detailed taxonomic information, diagnoses and photographs of 30 species and was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130612101853.htm

      Three-Billion-Year-Old Microfossils Include Plankton

      June 6, 2013 — Spindle-shaped inclusions in three-billion-year-old rocks are microfossils of plankton that probably inhabited the oceans around the globe during that time, according to an international team of researchers.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130606155123.htm

      June 13, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  18. Zella Dunsworth

    Physical activity can provide an outlet for your emotions, especially if you're about to erupt. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other favorite physical activities. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that can leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. "..`

    See the newest write-up at our personal blog site
    <http://www.calaguas.org/

    June 7, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  19. LIGHT

    The christ is not the God.

    This is the main problem for christians living in a big lie.

    That is why we can find too much athiests in thier socities becuase what they are reading about christianity is crashing with the brain.

    June 6, 2013 at 2:22 am |
  20. Cindi Spencer

    Who really is God? jw.org

    May 27, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Take your pick, they are all wrong. There are thousands to choose from...no evidence of any of them.

      May 27, 2013 at 4:06 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.