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. Manan Shukla

    He may be dirty from outer appearance but he was pure from his heart. In long term, Purity of heart and mind matters rather than body.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • gabe

      Jeez........I feel dumber now.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  2. Brian Macker

    He didn't even exist so how could he get dirty. He is an amalgam of myths about other religion's gods, prophets, and religious figures. Everything from the virgin birth to the shining star happened in other religions prior to the fabrication of Christianity.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Edweird69

      100% correct!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Dana

      True. I don't think these people could honestly believe this nonsense. They just WANT to believe this nonsense.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Christian7

      "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

      In modern language one might say that it is illogical to say that God does not exist because you lack the ability to look everywhere. You should not believe in something without good reason. But the same is true for someone that thinks they can prove a negative that is not restricted to time and place. You lack the ability to determine if God does not exist; yet you claim to. That is illogical.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  3. Ned Flanders

    There is a God!!!!!! (hockey strike is over) This just in, there's no god. smarten up, stupid.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  4. R Bauer

    And this articles point is? Who cares if he was dirty. He spread the word of God.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  5. Dana

    The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Indistinguishable in fact. Hard to side on existence without a shred of evidence.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  6. ???????

    Who knows why this dirty article is getting so many _______ comments ???

    January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  7. Just Me

    Jesus became poor so we can have the best and the only way to have the best is to allow HIM to be in our daily lives. There was nothing fashion about HIM as a human being, nor was he a royalty like many people thought of HIM to have been. He had to experience the nature of a real HUMAN BEING in order for HIM to understand what living in the flesh is like.

    Rather he lived dirty or clean, HE died for our SINS and that's all that matter is to know that HE rather have died then to live without us in order to bring us back to GOD.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Edweird69

      I would have told him not to bother dying on the cross for me. I have no desire to spend eternity with his father...NONE.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • JWT

      There was never a time that I was with your version of god, and no reason to ever be that way.

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

    I grow weary of the Christ and Christian bashing by your secular humanist writers parading their personal biases and their ignorance. Stop it!

    January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • blake

      This writer is a rare exception to that pattern.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Edweird69

      Xtianity if finally starting to meet its fate, like all other religions in its past. Just wish it would disappear in my life time. Too much to hope for.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  9. AndYouCallYourselfAProfOfReligion

    @Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear - the answer to that is, you do your own research. I agree that information may get diluted when passed down by word of mouth multiple times. But is the Matthew, Mark, Luke, John recorded historically via word of mouth passed on to generations? or is it first hand writing by a scribe/assistant who followed the said apostle/disciple everywhere he went? Also, were there eye witnesses during that time period that attests to the authenticity/accurateness of the scribe's writing?

    Don't believe my word for it either as its easy to believe anything we read in online forums. YOU do the research if you are interested. If not, then just sit back and enjoy a nice Sunday morning...

    January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  10. wrabbit99

    Occam must have been an interesting man :>).

    January 6, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  11. Pinewalker

    "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" This is an image people who do not attend church very often or are practicing Christians probably have in their head.

    "He let himself be killed, and then he busted open a tomb" ....a simple phrase, but yet a perfect glimpse into the path this Honey Boo Boo, Kardashians, The Bachelor, wardrobe malfunction world is headed down.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  12. Gun_nuts_Suck

    There never was a person named Jesus Christ.
    PLEASE WATCH zeitgeistmoviecom
    I implore you to get over this utter BS meme of chrisitanity over someone that never existed.
    Jeeze get real people.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Frank

      Here we go, the nut cases are crawling out from under their rocks!!!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • gabe

      How could this possibly be a front page feature on CNN? A new low.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Dana

      Frank, speaking of nut cases, you are the one that believes an invisible guy in the sky that created everything a few thousand years ago, people created from magical ribs, talking snakes, people walking on water, etc. Grow up.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • John A

      There was never a person by the name of Gun_nuts_Suck

      January 6, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • cmiller09

      Frank, why is it when people that are not buying into what you believe are nuts? I mean just because someone doesn't believe in words from a book, a book nobody is truly sure who wrote, or even if any of it is true. Where is the evidence, not just words from a book? Are there testaments from actual witnesses other than those that are in the book written down somewhere? I think all those believing in a fairy tale is NUTS.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  13. HKA

    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.

    I love this paragraph as I have often told my Christian friends that we do not have to sit back and be disrespected and taken advantage of so we can reflect Jesus in their minds.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  14. Frank

    This guy does not believe in God or in Jesus. Of course he was dirty! He lived in the 1st century!!! He was an ordinary human being. God did not come to earth as a king or rich man. This author is an idiot. Who would believe anything about God or Christianity from CNN????

    January 6, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • wes

      How do you know he doesn't believe in God?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Saraswati

      You're saying that a vice president of Liberty Universitydoesn't believe in God? That's some pretty successful infiltration onthe part of the atheists.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Just Me

      Amen, well stated Frank! 🙂

      January 6, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Pinewalker

      ....and notice how they perfectly time it to Sunday mornings when most practicing Christiaans are in church so the atheists can run rampant on this comment board. They have admitted in articles themselves that 60% of their commentors are atheists yet only 9% of the general American population is.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Jack Preet

      God either calls you to Him or He doesn't. The author just needed some money to pay his rent, so what. Jesus is my God not the non-believer who wrote this article. That guy is just a member of the devil's minions. I'll pray for him, but he doesn't reflect my belief and he doesn't cause me harm. I am one of God's Saints. Praise Jesus!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Edweird69

      @PineandJack – Maybe most of us commenters here are atheists. You have your churches, your religions channels, and your hooks in about every other forum. We finally get one place to have our conversations, and your memeplex wants to infiltrate it too. You have a memeplex...get help.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  15. Christian7

    The author says "and even tried to throw him off a cliff" but failed to mention why they tried. They wanted to kill him because he said "before Abraham, I am." That is the referring to the burning bush that Moses encountered. Jesus did claim to be God. Jesus is God.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Edweird69

      Jesus seemed confused about whom he thought he was. One passage says "my father and I are one", and another states "he who is in heaven is greater than I". You can't be equal and greater at the same time.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  16. Gawd

    It must be make-believe day again.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Christian7

      Logically you are claiming to be all knowing like a god when you say it is make believe. You do not have the capability to know. It is very arrogant to say that.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  17. wes

    How Great THOU Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt!

    God is good. Religion is the pits.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Oh but religion is nothing without some form of an imaginary friend like your imaginary friend god.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • wes

      Faith is in response to hope. Religion is man made.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  18. Dan

    It's sad that some people spend their lives researching a fairy tale.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Goose66

      What's sad is that the 2% can be so confident that the 98% are complete morons and that it has been that way for 3000 years.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Edweird69

      @Goose – 98% used to think the earth was flat too... think about that. Just because the majority has an opinion, does not make it correct.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  19. lame


    January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  20. jason

    for extraordinary claims you need extraordinary evidence. if you really want to say he was a god but also human and came here to save us , give us a little more evidence then just one man preaching , cause that's all anyone did back then . the only reason we even have christianity today is because constantine the roman emperor wanted to control the masses

    January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Dana

      "It has served us well, this myth of Christ."

      Pope Leo X

      January 6, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • Bill P

      jason – Evidence? There were the 500 witnesses to Jesus' resurrection. There are the existing today 5600 copies of the New Testament texts, made around 100 AD that are 99.5% consistent with ZERO ancient texts (contemporary) written by anybody that dispute what took place. There are the writings of secular Roman historian Josephus. And there are the billions of folks that have believed, across oceans, and across thousands of years in the SAME, unchanged account of Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection. From that, it mostly boils down to desire to believe, not about lack of evidence. Basically, folks do not want to believe that they are sinners and will spend their entire lives disputing that Jesus was necessary – to save them from their denied sins. But, after death, which can come as a thief in the night, they will confess that Jesus is Lord and they will do it on their knees. And they will then be cast into the Lake of Fire – for eternity. Now is the time to make a decision to believe.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Andrew


      You don't really believe the myths you wrote do you? Surely a person who takes christianity seriously, as a christian should, would have done the research and be able to distinguish facts from lies. When a christian presents such whoppers it only undermines christianity – surely this is not your intention?

      Josephus – a proven fraud that even christian scholars acknowledge.

      5600 copies of the NT from around 100AD? LOL, it will probably be 5700 by the time the next christian passes that one on to other christians.

      500 witnesses to jesus' resurrection? Try one story/claim of 500 witnesses repeated over and over – all the difference in the world.

      I realize the vacuum of contemporary evidence for the existence of even a man named jesus who did anything like what the OT claims is a very uncomfortable subject for many christians, but you do yourself no favors by passing down common lies that circulate the christian mailing lists, and then repeating your mythology including threats of torture by fire for doubters, and promises endless life for believers. It is just too transparent – you are creating atheists from such weak comments.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Bill P

      Andrew – In the end, it is all a matter of faith, which is the way God wants it. I would dispute your contentions but it is futile – not that you may be dishonest, but the conversation would simply go on and on. The Bible even made it clear that belief was about faith and that approaching God required that you believe that He is God. He is not able to be inspected under a microscope or tested with litmus paper. And that is the way He wants it. I laugh at the search for the "God Particle" (at the Large Hadron Cyclotron) because God would simply not allow Himself to be discovered in that manner. What He did do was state that He is manifested in nature – even His power and Godhead (Trinity) (Romans 1:20). Some see that and some do not. It is a matter of desire. For the person who has accepted Jesus as Savior and filled with the Holy Spirit, that person knows that Jesus is real. For the person that does not believe, all of this is foolishness (1 Cor 2:14). Call it a cop-out or self-delusion, it does not change one iota how I perceive the truth. Imagine that we had a Youtube "video" of Jesus' death and resurrection. Would you then believe? Well, maybe. But, more than likely, doubts would set in and claims of fraud and trickery would be alleged. Back to square-one in the faith department.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:52 am |
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