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. conrad franks

    U r totally ignorant. I dont belive a think u said. I think u r antichrist.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • MagicPanties

      My invisible pink unicorn doesn't believe a think either.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  2. Farooq The Great

    What a worthless article. I can't believe I wasted precious seconds reading it.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • OpposingView

      And I can't believe you even have the brains to read. Imagine that...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  3. humuncoloid

    Also, the Roman lead plumbing pipes of his time, probably caused him to suffer from lead poisoning that might have lead to some mental retardation and imbecility.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • dreamer96

      Interesting Theory ...but most of the water ways leading to Rome where made of stone and clay...only a small amount inside the City were lead pipe...and the water was moving fast and ran at around 1,300 PSI...only danger of lead is from standing water....and the standing water in Rome was in Brick wells so that water was preaty safe.....

      January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  4. CoolCMo

    All religion is nothing more than mental illness.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • MagicPanties

      Nah, being brainwashed [from childhood] is not the same thing as mental illness, no more than being racist because you had racist parents means you are mentally ill.

      Organized religion exists only because kids are indoctrinated by their families and the cycle continues.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  5. Marcus

    Good article.
    Many people fail to realized Jesus's true purpose. He formulated a mathematically perfet moral code- Love thy neighbor as thyself. Proclaimed it the greatest commandment equal to loving the All Mighty with all of your heart mind and soul. Then he walked the walk and forever changed the world for the better. As C.S. Lewis pointed out: If you are stuck in a deep hole who would you listen to when trying to get out? Someone in hole with you? Someone that was never in the hole? Or somone that was in the hole but got out and is now offering you help?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Mathematics and morals are totally unrelated.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • MagicPanties

      The "golden rule" existed long before Christianity came along. Try again.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Marcus

      The golden rule - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is recipriocity of a cerebral nature. Love thy neighbor is spiritual and a perfect moral code. Jesus set it at the center of his spiritual revolution and backed it up like none other before him.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  6. ted

    If CNN is talking about Jesus, it must be ratings time.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Mike V.

      Great, great point!!!!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  7. B D-L

    This book is news? This story seems like a reprint out of one of the popular news magazines on the coffee tables of the 60's and 70's.....at the very least. And, still very "white bread" at that.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  8. Mike V.

    Jesus was NEVER sick with any type if affliction or sickness,... he was a PERFECT human like Adam was. He was Immune to diseases (as was Adam). I'd challenge you to find a single word or sentence in the Holy Bible thats states otherwise. In Adams case he only lost his perfection after he sinned and at that point began to deteriorate and enventually die. Took him almost 1000 years to lose hi perfection and die lookit up.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • FloydZepp


      January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Marcus

      I would look it up, but like Jesus I'm not too keen on bronze age scripture.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Alexander

      I think that the Son of Man pretty much stated that he suffered just as we all suffer, and that would include both mental and physical.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • RS

      I have some comic books you should read- about as factual as the Bible .....
      Some cool facts about superman

      January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • boh1066

      Ok, maybe he was never sick but that negates nearly none of the author's argumenw. Jesus still had to take a cr@p every once and again, if he was really a 'true man'. Also, he was filthy because every peasant who lived in those times had no resources to 'waste' water on bathing. Additionally, he was also not perfect emotionally. Turning over the table's in the marketplace because they were holding it in the temple. He completely lost his temper and gave in to the sin of anger. He also prayed, more than once, that he not have to go through with his father's plan. I'm not Christian but did go to 13 Yeats of Catholic School, so I have some familiarity with the Bible. Sorry, Jesus was not, by his own admission, perfect.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • boh1066

      Stupid auto correct, 'years' not 'Yeats'......

      January 6, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Billy McKee

      Mike Ireally can.t beleive that you are that shallow.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:00 am |
  9. Corey Nguyen

    If Jesus was around today, I bet he would always have the best weed. He definitely would smoke his weed in joints, not blunts , pipes or bongs. Also, everyone would tell him to cut his hair.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  10. eran

    As usual, people who try to understand Jesus and Jesus's massage without understanding Judaism, particularly during the period of the second Temple are doomed to fail! This period is characterized but the abundance of bathes "Mikavaot" where people often washed themselves as a way of purification. This is how John is coming into the story. He was not an isolated person, it was like the hippy movement of the 70s just lasted longer...People took these bathes and purification ceremonies very seriously. Beside Judaism like Islam requires you fro some habits that helped to keep hygiene better than most Christians think. If you think about Jesus like the Medieval Christian in Europe, you are just wrong

    January 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • MagicPanties

      I think of Jesus massage as full-body, including privates. That, now, would be fully human.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  11. Kay

    I am not sure why this author assumes anyone thought Jesus did not get dirty. Kind of dumb considering the period and the life he lived. As far as the "clean, iconic" images pictures portray? I imagine back then even a carpenter walked into the river on occasion and washed. Very strange story to have on the front of a Web-site.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • B D-L

      Exactly!! Makes it seem like no one ever before went in search of "the historical Jesus." And this author's search, at least as suggested by this article, focuses on rather trivial historicization, dealing with bodily functions! Amazing.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  12. Paul

    I see no need to keep track of this author. Jesus is the Son of God, period. whether he had imperfections in his human life is really immaterial. The press and the controversy they try to inflect can well, you know, stuff it because they don't have what Christians have. Hidden agendas by intellectual morons.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • dreamer96

      And God creates a Tornado on Earth everytime he flushs his Tolilet in Heaven....

      January 6, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  13. lee

    Nurse & Christian here. I never thought about it before but since humans do get sick occasionally (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sinus issues, flu, sore tooth, ear ache, gas pains, food poisoning, sea sick,.general aches.... ) I'm sure Jesus did also since He was fully human. He was also here to experience what it's like to be Human, so it doesn't make since that He would "choose" to use some of His powers to avoid being physically ill.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  14. People people people....

    This is just one guys opinion. He even states that at the end of his article.
    'The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore.' This guy has thought of Jesus and his time of living waay back in the day. I'm sure there are plenty of people who may have had the same thoughts just as his. When I read this.. I personally thought .." hmmm... yeah... that's reasonable and the odds are that its probably true.... or maybe not"... I also thought " Interesting... " The difference between this guys and the 'plenty' of people with similar thoughts is that he's getting paid for his thoughts/opinions. So what? When people says things about the Lord/jesus/God... that's all it is... its just words. They can't take away what is yours in your heart. Your beliefs. Those are yours to keep. Sometimes articles like this just make it interesting to read anothers perspective. Just because I read something doesn't make me decide to give up my beliefs. It would take more than an article of one person or a thousand people to make me give up what I believe in. Remember the movie Mel Gibson made a few years back... there were people aghast of what this film was about and how it was protrayed. Remember? My point is... its probably been forgotten until now when I mentioned it. Same thing about this article and all the others that will follow. Its just reading .... excercise for the mind. Now, get on out of here and go do something fun !

    January 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  15. Elizabeth West

    Everybody poops. 🙂

    "He didn’t decide to brandish his power, but to spend most of his time with the powerless and disenfranchised." This made me smile. All the self-righteous, critical, bigoted people out there who call themselves Christians, but who spend their time slamming other people for being Muslim or brown or gay, would do well to remember this. Jesus would probably not have chosen to hang out with THEM.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  16. lex

    Does Obama ever get dirty? After all, he is treated like a god by many, including the media, who cannotr be subject to criticism.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  17. Mke

    Point of order: Jesus may have smelled BAD, but probably did not smell BADLY, unless he had a cold or something. You don't mean that his ability to smell was impacted, but that his smell was unpleasant. This is one of the most common grammar mistakes I see, it detracts from your credibility.

    Overall interesting food for thought.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Water into beer

      Wow! The adverb cop!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Bee

      Thanks for pointing out the misuse of "badly" for "bad." You may be mocked for correcting the author's grammar, but you are fighting the good fight! Where was the editor? People who use "badly" instead of "bad" are trying to sound "proper," but they come off sounding ignorant. Overall, the article points out the obvious, but it fails to mention that Jesus and his followers and all the people of the time lived with infestations of lice. Not a pretty picture! None of this takes away from Jesus's message.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • boh1066

      I agree with Bee. I am more convinced, with each passing day, that people no longer care if they sound ignorant. I don't know why it's acceptable to have a poorly edited op-ed piece, let alone a 'hard news' piece, published. CNN is one of the worst when it comes to correcting errors. I would wager there is at least one error in every article written by a CNN reporter.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  18. Dana

    Johnnie Moore, I feel bad for you wasting your life on a bunch of magical mythology.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • OpposingView

      I feel even worse for you wasting your life serving the devil...

      January 6, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  19. RIck Springfield

    He was wealthy. People gave him everything when he travelled. He was a carpenter which was a very noble craft of the day. It was very well paid profession. He could afford a donkey which was the Lexus of the day.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Dana

      Jessie's got himself a girl
      And I want to make her mine
      And she's watching him with those eyes
      And she's lovin' him with that body, I just know it!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • JJ

      I commissioned Jesus to build some cabinets for me and am still waiting. I even advanced him some cash. I'm beginning to think I've been stiffed.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  20. El Flaco

    Jesus can be anything you want him to be. We really have no idea what he said or what he believed. From among many possible 'book', the bishops appointed by Augustine to assemble a Bible chose he ones we have now. They present Jesus in many different ways. They books that were not included in our Bible have many different descriptions of Jesus.

    Jesus exists in only one place: between your ears. He is your creation. Use Him to make yourself a better person.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Andrew

      "He is your creation. Use Him to make yourself a better person."

      I have a better suggestion... let go of the myth completely and use science-based thoughtful reasoning to make yourself a better person and your community a better place. I would suggest that continuing to hold onto the myth is harmful – it causes one to look someplace else other than the plane of reality for answers to questions.

      Acknowledging the man-made nature of all the claims about god, including the very human act of forming a committee to decide which man-written scrolls go in the bible and which don't, is a good start, but people should hold themselves to a higher standard than that in my opinion. In most parts of America being an atheist is the last great taboo. People should come out and break that taboo. It will make you a better person, and pave the way for a more just community.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:32 am |
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