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. keith

    So Jesus had to "go"?? So did George Washington, and believe it or not...Obama. The reader/viewer kinda realizes that without a pointy head such as yourself telling us.
    This is a headline at CNN?
    Wow....says much.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  2. Indle

    let the pathetic retards have their fun....The bible said this would happen....lol

    January 6, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Cliff

      The Apostasy, just before the antichrist

      January 6, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Indle

      why is it mostly white trash and retards that are born agains?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  3. cindy lou who

    cnn's sunday morning i hate christ and christians article right on cue. Shame to say God incarnate was dirty. Blasphemy and shame.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Cliff

      Satanists love to blaspheme on Sunday

      January 6, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • sam stone

      oooooh.....satan......pretty scary stuff, cliffy....for those who believe in it

      January 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  4. Ed F.

    I heard Jesus never wiped until Passover, then he would Pass his had OVER his butt and smell it. He loved his own brand.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  5. Kim

    You are seriously delusional. Lay off the liberal cool-aid.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • wes

      Jesus was a dirty brown foreign Jew.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  6. Ron

    Very poorly written. Unfactual! Very easy to portray anything in a bad light when not put in its proper context.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • druidarama

      He's actually correct when you eliminate all the embellishments on the life of Jesus. He was just a man, as opposed to some god who walks on water, raises the dead, and flies off to some ethereal place called heaven. This is the 21st century, and I like to think we have evolved intellectually enough to put such ridiculous stories about a mere man behind us by now.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  7. wes

    Odd how he could part the seas, but as a carpenter couldn't hammer together a bathtub.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  8. Ds

    According to this article, Jesus sounds a lot like a leader of a Hell's Angels gang 😮

    January 6, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • wes

      Jesus was a brown foreigner.

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

    I am a Muslim and i feel insulted by this article by speaking about the Prophet Jesus like that. You Johnnie is the dirtiest.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Ed F.

      Go blow a yak.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • JJ

      There's no greater insult that you called Jesus only a prophet (minor to Mohammad even). He's GOD and you will burn for eternity just like filthy Jews, atheists and all who are not TRUE CHRISTIANS. Enjoy Hell!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • druidarama

      The Jesus you believe in from your Koran isn't the same Jesus from the Gospels, so relax.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Mohamed – grow up! Why should you feel "insult" because of what someone else writes, or says. That's terribly immature. Why should you care what someone else believes? It's all horsesh!t anyway – Islam, Christianity – all of it.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  10. Kim

    CNN why would you even print an article such as this?
    Why? Because it's Sunday and you probably have no church to go to so you want to make fun of Christians on their day of worship?
    Because you expose yourself as the God-hating, "free-thinking", founder Ted Turner liberal-loving conservative-haters that you ARE?!
    You do NOT speak for the masses, your news is always so left wing biased my 8 year old daughter can see through the BS.
    I'm not a very religious person but am offended and even shocked that you continue to print ridiculous stories/articles such as this. I mean, if you feel that bad about your own spiritual health, perhaps you should speak to a preacher or something. Instead, you poke fun at christianity and the millions that follow that religion in a poor attempt to satisfy your own lack of spirituality.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  11. jms4177

    Of course he was dirty like the rest of the population.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  12. Green1955

    Jesus this and Jesus that. It’s all speculation. The fact of the matter is that there is simply no evidence, outside of the decidedly partisan and unreliable gospels, that Jesus ever existed. There is no eyewitness testimony, no archeological evidence, nothing to even suggest that he may have existed. A book with bunch of ancient desert scribblings written by many different authors well after Jesus supposedly existed is weak evidence at best. If Jesus did exist he wasn't the son of god, he didn't perform miracles, and he wasn't resurrected. These are all embellishments added by various authors of the Bible to make the Bible more salient. In reality…if Jesus did exit…he probably was an average Joe with a psychiatric illness ( grounded in religious delusion) that starting speaking in public…attracting large gullible crowds and was eventually killed by the Jewish and Roman authorities because of his nonsense. On the contrary, lets assume Jesus is all that he is supposed to be and that he indeed has a divine connection to a universal creator. Of all the times in the history of mankind…why would the creator of the universe decide to try and make contact with man at such a barbaric and ancient time. Incidentally, a time that was replete with fables, monsters and various gods. In fact the entire concept of a master creator sending a part of himself to a little speck of matter in the middle of cosmic nowhere becomes frighteningly insane.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Jackie

      So do you not beleive in your great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents? No one is alive that knew them. There are no pictures. Anything you know about them is handed down in writings from people who lived at the same time...if there even is anything written down about them. Hmmm....I'm not sure you are real since I have no proof your ancestors existed.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Michael

      There is evidence of Jesus, historically, Johnnie Moore is a very intelligent man, knows and studies more than most people in this country, and CNN is not trying to appeal to Fox News fans. I know that CNN is less Bias than Fox News and I know that since I watch Fox News a lot, but that is besides the point. Jesus came to save people from their sins. There are many things that we cannot understand about God, but He loved the world so much to send His only son Jesus. Thanks to Him we do not have to suffer in hell forever if we recieve Christ in faith. He loves you and me

      January 6, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • KC

      There are contemporary reports of a prophet named Jesus in the right time and place, but there's a big difference between someone being a prophet and being the Son of God. 2000 years in the future, someone can prove that I existed (birth certificate, bronze plaques on walls of public buildings), but that won't prove more than that I was born and I donated money to schools and libraries. Certainaly won't prove that I went around performing miracles or rose from the dead.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  13. Evolve

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    January 6, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  14. Like this

    If CNN is trying to appeal to Fox News fans....its not gonna work.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  15. Whiteman

    More hackneyed drivel about jeebus. Give us a break.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  16. AlFranken

    If you go to the "Atheists chat forum" on craigslist and even attempt to make responsible discourse about atheism or faith you will automatically get shunned, stunned, and eventually booted.

    Yet these same morons are like flies all over **it when articles like this come along.

    Ironically, Christopher Hitchens, their god of a sort, really doesn't share their approach at all and would cringe to the thought of being associated to these morons.

    I remember my humanities instructor, a Pakistan woman, who babbled on about having class on Sunday and loved to mock Jesus and when you would smile and at her and shake your head and how she would begin to tremble when she saw that.

    Just very small people who have no real retort or valid explanation.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • adose of reality

      No matter how you dress it up, there are some fundamental difficulties with Christianity that are pretty hard to overcome.
      1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.
      While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.
      Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.
      2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as coveting their neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.
      3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is harbor an honest, reasonable and rational disbelieve in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.
      4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.
      5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Ho.rus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).
      6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.
      7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.
      Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.
      8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.
      9. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.
      Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?
      Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • adose of reality

      waiting for your 'retort' there buddy!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Ed F.

      ZERO proof any God ever existed.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      "Just very small people who have no real retort or valid explanation"

      We use numerous books for our answers and do not claim to know everything; a christard uses one book and claims to know everything. The Grand Delusion!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Jackie

      the proof of Jesus and God is faith.....if you don't have the faith in your heart and haven't experienced the liberating feeling of being free of your sins, it can't be explained to you. As long as you refuse to consider the possibility and/or until you reach a point in your life that you realize your need for forgiveness and hope, you will never understand. You can list a million reasons you believe Christ and Christianity is bogus, but that won't deter us who are believers from believing. And that is what grates at you....because you have never experienced that and until you do, you will remain confused.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • senant

      Great response from @doseofreality, will probably quote your comments in the future. 🙂

      One thing people miss is that the Bible and christianity as we know it is a construct of the Roman empire. The emperor summoned leading religious leaders from across the mediteranian – Leaders LOYAL to Rome that is, where they had a meeting to construct a single unified christian religion.

      A State religion, for Rome. The reason you see little inclusion of inflammatory Gospels or teachings is that the point was to have a unifykng doctrine that would create stability across wbat was at the time the
      largest nation in the world.

      Many gospels/books were excluded, new ones were crafted from stories and legend.

      The Gospels of Thomas, simon,the list goes on and on.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • nobody in particular

      @adose of reality: Dr. Carl Sagan, a leading teacher of random evolution, estimates that the chance of life evolving on Earth is 1, followed by 2 billion zeros.
      Dr.Emil Borel, (an expert in mathematical probability) [says] "The occurrance of any event where the chances are beyond one, followed by fifty zeros is an event that we can state with certanty will never happen, no matter how much time is alotted and no matter how many concievable opprotunities could exist for the event to happen for the event to happen."
      Rex Russel, "What the Bible says about Healthy Living" pp 67,68
      I believe the chances of there being a living creative God are better than the chances of "random evolution"; 1 followed 2 billion zeros?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  17. Ramon F. Herrera

    Republicans (conservatives in general) have a VERY simplistic mind. Everything is black and white to them. Their favorite movies are from Disney (good guy, bad guy) and their hero is John Wayne. They focus on looks and appearances: the polite and diplomatic act of bowing is insulting to them.

    Liberals have a much more complex mind. They focus in substance and intellect. Ugly broads like Janet Reno, Napolitano or Golda Meier would NEVER make it in the Republicans Party. Dumb bimbos (Palin, Bachmann, O'Donnell) would never make it in the Democratic Party.

    Just compare the women in Faux vs. CNN and -specially- MSNBC.

    In the Conservative mind:

    A good looking person ==> a good person
    A bad looking person ==> a bad person.

    That is why conservatives tend to be racists.


    January 6, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • liberal disease

      do you mean like Joe Biden?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Ed

      It must be a very shallow and naive world you live in. I pity the fact that you will struggle most of your life to have a deeper understanding of what really is going on. Hang in there though; there is always a chance that some common sense and a dose of reality will hit you over the head someday.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  18. Blinkers

    Homeric is not rhetoric…

    January 6, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  19. Brandon

    He was also a brown and his name was Yeshua

    January 6, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  20. ANTIC123

    You are a disgrace with your wording, your an editor, Ha !! what a laugh. I along with many other's would not touch your book that is filled with lies and deceit.

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

      Good observation as if one cannot write a simple one to two page article, why buy a whole book?

      January 6, 2013 at 8:45 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.