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. Edweird69

    What is more selfish than clinging to the ultimate selfish fantasy of thinking the universe and its supposed creator revolves around YOU? And that this super-being has an actual interest in your selfish and self-absorbed life?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Dana

      I think these people have no self-esteem and just WANT to believe.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  2. wow

    Jesus would have been a Boston Red Sox fan if he were living now.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • snowboarder

      you can be certain he would be wagering on the redskins this afternoon.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  3. WakeUp48

    I can smell your kind a mile away.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  4. gop usa

    Funny seeing so many argue against this article,but the same people sold out their faith to support a cult leader who believes his Mormon Magical Underwear has magical powers and god lives on Planet KOLOB..............I find it funny how so easily people will throw out their faith or make excuses why they support a man whos religion spits on everything christian basically. How shallow people can be.....

    January 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  5. Dan

    I don't understand the beginning of the article. He's making the same mistake many Christians do. Jesus was never a god. He was the Son of god and a prophet "allegedly.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Edweird69

      "The son of god"...god needed a son? For the sole purpose of becoming a slaughtered sacrifice? What kind of monster would allow their own son to be brutally tortured, for the sole purpose "so I can forgive". Who would worship such a monster? OH, I know the answer to my own questions...xtians, that's who.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Guest

      You are incorrect Dan. Jesus is and always WILL be God, and the Son of God, NOT a prophet. He came to earth as man, died on the cross for us. He was NOT a prophet. No prophet could have ever withstood the torture that Jesus went through before His crucifixtion. A mere man would have never made it to the cross, they would have died long before that time. I don't know where you get your information, but you are dead wrong.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • snowboarder

      guest, there is no reason to believe any of that to be true. the entire idea is absurd and your belief nothing more than a testament to the effectiveness of your indoctrination.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Edweird69

      @Guest – No, you are WRONG. There are no gods at all. Get used to it. Get over it. Get a life. You are not special. Like all living things on this planet, you will live, and then not exist. It's ok. You didn't exist before you were born, and you will not exist after you die. It's palpable. I have accepted it, and you can too.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Guest

      @Snowboarder-Oh, really? Well, guess what, you don't know what I know, which is WHY you are writing the crap your writing. Keep it up, it won't affect me at all. I know God and Jesus exist and so does a majority of the world! I feel sorry for you, that you have it in your heart that God doesn't exist, and have so much hate for God. You are initimidated by God! Hopefully, one day you'll be lucky enough to meet HIM face to face!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Edweird69

      "I know God and Jesus exist and so does a majority of the world! I" The majority of the world used to think the earth was flat. They were wrong. You just think you know something others don't know. Xtians have a superior "we have the truth and you don't mentality". It's repulsive! You are out to convince everyone of your fairytale, and threaten them with eternal torment. Like I said.. repulsive!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  6. musulmán de egipto

    Dear Christians
    I really feel & understand how u guys having a great deal of confusion, I have read a lot in the Bible because as Muslims we believe in Bible and we believe in Jesus who came to the earth as a prophet, not a God neither son of God. We believe that Bible has exposed to a grand falsification. So, may ALLAH guide all of us to the right path.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Dana

      My imaginary friend is better than your imaginary friend.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Jon-of-WE

      That's not offensive!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Doug

      And we believe Mohammed was nothing more than a murderous horse thief, but thanks for your opinion on our religion

      January 6, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Jon-of-WE

      Muhammad was just as much or more of a badass than Jesus.And I am not even Muslim. Jesus started a religion that was later hi=jacked by the Romans and then the Europeans.Each using his message for power over the people.A God would have known that would happen!Now Muhammad,dude conquered a huge chunk of the planet and people lived in peace for the most part.Well until infighting then later the Crusades crushed his great empire. Look inside of yourself and there you will find God.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  7. Alex

    My Take: Jesus was a dirty, dirty God
    You have NO clue now shut up. Making these kind of statements just to find something to write about is sick.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Jon-of-WE

      It was a great lesson.Well written and well thought.It paints a picture in reality.Nor was Jesus european with with flowing brown locks. He was a Jew. 5ft something or other tanned OLIVE skin and black hair.Truth is the answer,not propaganda.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  8. mm

    you get in your knee and pray before is to late for you jesus saying to you repent my child dont let the devile play with your mind againts your own god jesus

    January 6, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Dana

      Why can't Jesus eat M&M's?

      Because he has holes in his hands.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  9. oldprofessor

    An interesting article. The bible is an account of the evolution of a mid Eastern religion that eventually spread over much of the world. The puzzling thing is why so many believers believe so many different things.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  10. No one

    And this matters why?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • VinnyCSr

      Johnnie Moore, Professor of Religion, and President at Liberty University, which no one knows exists. Why should we believe what you say. Jesus, his name is known around the World, more than any other, his teachings are practiced around the world, no other human can say that. The one thing I can say about you is that,YOU FOUND A WAY TO MAKE MONEY ON THE WEB BY USING THE MOST CELEBRATED NAME IN HISTORY. HIS TEACHINGS ARE REAL, HIS PLACE IN THIS WORLD IS REAL, HIS LOVE FOR US IS REAL, what can you say about yourself that is real except, that MONEY MOTIVATES YOU. I have had a SPIRITUAL INTERVENTION, so I know what is real and JESUS CHRIST IS GOD, AND HE IS REAL.Money is what comforts one to disgrace another, I feel sorry for you.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Jon-of-WE

      Look how you react to the truth.Do you just not believe Jesus was dirty because it does not state it in the bible?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  11. Dana

    A little boy is standing on top of a cliff, looking down at the sea and crying her eyes out. A priest approaches and says, "My child, why are you so upset?"

    The little girl turns to him and says, "My mummy and daddy were in their car - and it just rolled over the cliff and smashed on the rocks down there."

    The priest slowly looks around him while unbuttoning his cassock and says, "It's just not your day, is it?"

    January 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  12. DixieRed

    These things did not make him "dirty" only human which He had to be to understand what we go through. I resent Him being called "dirty". Such a blasphemous term for the Son of God. I am sure that most of this authors colleagues feel the same way.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • wes

      I don't think it's blasphemous to point out the contrast between the dirtiness of the times that Jesus chose to enter earth in and the cleanliness of his spirit. To be honest – it only helps his case.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Alfredo

      If you've ever lived in that region you become one with the dust. Unless you live in air conditioned running water luxury your clothes become the color of the earth. The white muslin soon turn brown or grey.

      You need to go to that part of the world and then seek out the rural villages that lack modern conveniences. The people keep themselves as clean as they can considering the conditions, but compared to our well manicured lives, they are dirty. They keep the stink of every day life at bay with frankincense and myrrh.

      In my region, men passing gas was a no no, but women could pass gas at will. Women were of lower status so cutting one was not out of character.

      Reality isn't blasphemy.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  13. Glenbo

    Very good adose, it is nice to have some well reasoned and informative dialogue on this forum. It is one of my greater curiosities how so many people, especially in this day and age, choose to close their eyes to all of the incredible knowledge available to us, and merely grasp onto a certain belief, to tow them through life. One thing for sure, people need things to attach themselves to feel good about, whether it is their religion, their hometown sports team, their new car, etc. We all need to lighten up and accept that this whatever it is, is something that makes the individual feel good, even if it is believing in the tooth fairy, it is their faith.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Jon-of-WE

      It is sad but for most they are brain washed as children and never get to learn all the joys of this earthly world.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  14. Rickybee

    You are dead-on brother, if Jesus wasn't fully human then how could I relate to him and his message? He set the example that all the crap I go through on a daily basis is normal, and can be overcome. If he didn't go through everything we go through then His message was irrelevant. Thanks for bringing to light this human side of Christ, He still lives and still changes lives today.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  15. asdf

    Unnecessary stupid topic.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  16. tony dipaola

    A pointless article.
    If this was mohammed you were debasing,
    I'd cut off your testicles.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • RR

      Neither Mohammad nor Jesus would be offended by this topic if they are GOD. It is their so called followers who have an issue. Being offended by anything said about GOD is petty and human. GOD "made" us and gave us brains to think so we can come up with articles like these and then add comments to these articles.....They own us and can shut us off if they perceived anything we sais was offensive to them.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • kimo

      i don't know why you trying to tell bad things about jesus,will tou can't touch mohammed the real dirt in whole history

      January 6, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • pjr

      tony – Read the book of Philippians in the only source of truth...the Bible. EVERY knee will bow to Jesus one day, and that includes the god (small god) you serve and bow down to. Even the mother of Jesus recognized that she needed a Savior and His name is Jesus. There is no other name under heaven by which men MUST be saved.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Edweird69

      @pjr – thanks for regurgitating that load of bs.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  17. Water into beer

    Hey...with a steady diet of fish, loaves and vino...no wonder he had bowel problems. Did he ever see a dentist? His breath must have been boffo! Enough to wake the dead.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Alfredo

      Chick Peas and Lentils were probably a part of his diet. As a human he had all the naughty parts and the hormones that go with them.

      Not only did they have wine, they had beer, hashish, and opium. Social norms were different so the use of such substances could have been part of many social gatherings. They were probably part of their native medicine. The laborers might have chewed Kat, but I am not sure it grew in his region.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  18. Dana

    Q: What's the difference between Jesus and a picture of Jesus?
    A: You need only one nail to hang up a picture of Jesus.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  19. Frank

    To all of you ignorant commenters calling this man an 'abomination' and 'insane' and somebody with 'nothing better to do': I hope you realize how stupid you all sound. You are sitting there reading a different perspective on a highly debated topic, with words that make complete sense, and calling him an idiot for it. Get real! No matter how you cut it, JESUS WAS HUMAN. Even if everything else in that book that has actually caused the MURDER of so many people is correct, the fact remains he was human, just like you and me. Imagine how he must see you now, ignoring logic, throwing everything that makes sense away, just so you can sleep at night continuing to believe he didn't have bowl movements. You are the kind of people that make me ashamed to be a human being. Stop living in your freakish fantasy world

    January 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
  20. the praisworthy

    Jesus never claimed divinity,he never said i am god but he said John 14:28 “My Father is greater than I.” Jesus prayed to God with the words:

    John 17:3 “…that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” so If Jesus was God, he would have sought worship for himself. Since he didn’t, instead he sought worship for God in the heavens, therefore, he was not God.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • JJ

      And terefore explains why there are thousands of denominations/sects of Christianity. Why anyone would take this bronze age text written by sheep humpers as any kind of truth completely baffles me.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • pjr

      praisworthy – You are wrong my friend. Jesus was fully man and fully God. He told Philip that "if you have seen me, you have seen my father.....God." It is hard to grasp but he was God in the flesh. Read the Gospel of John.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • ttwp

      I suggest you go back and re-read the Gospels. Even His enemies knew who He was claiming to be.

      "Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:31-33

      January 6, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Alfredo

      PJR, could he have been referring to the divinity in all of us? We are all God in the flesh because we were created in his likeness.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • the praisworthy

      PJR : show me where in the bible jesus said I AM GOD ? on the other hand i'll show you just from the bible that he denied godship,trinity not found in the bible,added over 2 centuries after jesus .........................................list goes on BUT you have just this I AND THE FATHER ARE ONE as proof ,you're a joke ,do you ever heard about somthing called methaphorical languge?? well for the sake of this argument i assume jesus and god are one person ,why he said MY FATHER IS GREATER THAN I , He said I ASCEND TO MY FATHER AND YOUR FATHER MY GOD AND YOUR GOD ??????? IS GOD CONFUSED OR PAUL OF TARSUS

      January 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
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