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. ALEX

    you all seem really mad and hateful this artical is someone's opinion why must you all bash each other? either you agree or disagree but act like civil adults im not saying this artical is correct bc idk none of us do we can only belive and have faith in our religions.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Jason

      You mean act like adults? Them first.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • mk

      OR, you could not have faith in religion and think for yourself.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  2. Ring of Fire

    You would think the son of god could hit the old man up for a tube of preperation H.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  3. The Brown Note


    The "D" is silent.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  4. We left the cave long ago

    No need for it (bible) anymore. Do we want to go back to this time ?
    One of the most difficult things to comprehend about this story is the degree to which slavery was an accepted part of American life. It was sanctioned in the Bible, certainly all over the place in the Old Testament, so slaveholders used that as justification.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • David Geffeney

      This will add to your wisdom for the week, we all learn something new, and this will show you something amazing. What you are referring to is not properly labelled slavery, but of servant-hood. One could "sell" oneself into servanthood for a period to pay off debts, yet not to exceed 7 years where everyone goes free (called sabbatical year) However, if you chose to remain with the home that provided you with a living wage (even indentured servants in view here were paid 1/2 what a career servant was paid, you could chose a life of it (called a duolos in greek) See "owners" were incented to offer a great working environment, these "slaves" as you call it were treated like one of the family Best example of that is Eliazer the servant for Abraham and Issac. The entire book of Philemon is basically about how slavery is not endorsed, Paul is giving him the chance to do what is right and release his slave.

      They are short reads if you would like to refer to it yourself Deuteronomy 15, Leviticus 25, and of course Philemon. You will see the picture of a system created by God where if someone got under crushing debt, they had a system for you to restore yourself via humble servant-hood for a season. Your assertion that "slavery" is encouraged is born only of ignorance, and you could learn a valuable lesson here to not assert something you have not studied.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  5. Sanderson

    Finally, a fresh look at who we really are and what we can become.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Which God?

      Sure, sandy...a pooping person who smells bad because he wiped his butt with his left hand and wipes it odd in the dirt. Hahaham god almighty. Stupid article, written by a fool of a professor at a religious univesity that should have it's accredations yanked. This guy is all bullschit.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  6. niknak

    The best, longest running and most lucrative ponzi scheme ever invented.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • WOW

      Or not...

      January 7, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • snopes says

      WOW doesn't have a clue

      January 7, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • David Geffeney

      You are right. Remember that Jesus was the most anti-religious person we read about. He rebuked the religionists of his day (the Pharasies), and Jesus endorsed radical humility and relationship with broken people. He is the best model of how to avoid religion and live with relationship.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  7. WOW

    This young commentator Johnnie Moore must not realize that his claims have been made many times before by others who wish to attempt to dislodge the Gospel in order to draw attention to their writings and attempt to gain fame through the deceit of their words. This article was not designed to shed any truth but to advance Johnnie’s own agenda. Way to go Johnnie. I am sure God will have a few words for you when you meet him face to face.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • niknak

      Or not.....

      January 7, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "WOW", but "God" is an element of mythology, therefore "it" cannot meet anyone. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      January 7, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • mk

      So your all-loving god will punish Johnny for saying that his son might not have been as clean as he is portrayed??

      January 7, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • WOW

      @hal – It appears to me that Johnnie believes in God so it is you that has TOTALLY FAILED in your conclusion concerning my statement. So I’m Sorry “hal”, you will need to put a little more time thinking on how to write your responses before you just post.

      @mk – Your response shows how you do not have a knowledge of what you speak of.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • snopes says

      WOW is false

      January 7, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • mk

      Not sure how this makes me less knowledgeable since it was you who claimed that Johnnie would be punished by your god for writing such stuff. It's just hard for me to believe a god would be so easily offended.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • WOW

      @mk – I didn’t say Johnnie would be punished, you said that. I said God will have a few words for you when you meet him face to face. It is the fact that you said “all-loving god will punish Johnny” is where you are lacking in knowledge. Please explain why you say God is “all-loving god will punish Johnnie” since you are the one who makes this claim.

      January 7, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • mk

      If it isn't a punishment, sure sounds like at least a scolding. So your god isn't all-loving?

      January 7, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • WOW

      @mk – Yes, in my statement, I gave an appearance of a possible “scolding” but only God will know what the experience will be once Johnnie meets face to face. The motive of Johnnie for writing an article such as this is what is in question that will cause a possible, let me use your word again, “scolding”. Does not a Father scolds his children when they do wrong and if so does this mean that the Father is somehow not “all-loving”? So please again I ask you to explain what you mean by “So your god isn’t all-loving?”?

      January 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  8. snowboarder

    at best jesus was a philosopher who's life was grossly embellished by his followers and at worst he is entirely fictional.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • John A

      Your miscalculations only harm yourself.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  9. christopher reid

    . Our Lord Christ He is our sheild as it written " if you are ashamed of Me in front of man .........so I shall be ashamed of you in front of the Father." How many times a day should we name Christ showing others and Him that we are not ashamed to speak his name or to worship HIM.I see you have given Him praise atleast 10 times.in you article Bravo

    January 7, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • The Brown Note

      One cannot be ashamed of what does not exist.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • David Geffeney

      the Brown Note must cannot be ashamed of his reasoning then.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  10. Steve

    This is actually a great perspective to ground the scriptures into a more relevant humanity. By looking at his human form to be equal with that of his godly form, the religion can better appreciate the true struggle of how a god in a man's body is the only one capable of being spiritually above reproach. Bravo. I like the fresh analysis.

    I personally don't believe in anything, but this makes for a more interesting read.


    January 7, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  11. epoch1

    How about saying Jesus pulled on his pec-ker like every man does

    January 7, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  12. adamthefirst

    Another anti-Religious article by cnn.

    January 7, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • epoch1

      For the record...Adam was not the first man.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • thewiz71

      Ummm...this is anti-religious, how exactly? It isn't saying anything new to those of us who believe that Jesus was God and human. If human, then yes, he was subject to the same conditions as every other person of his time and place, and to other basic physical conditions which have been universally part of the human experience. That's the whole point. The only way that this is anti-religious is if you're a Gnostic who believes that the Son of God was not really human at all, that his humanity was an illusion. If that is the case, you have fun with that, but it ain't real.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Kevin Nivek

      I'm curious, who came first, Jesus, the dinosaurs, or australopithecus man?

      January 7, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  13. epoch1

    Jesus was the father of Jim Jones

    January 7, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Michael Hunt, Esq.

      Mike Jones!

      January 7, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  14. epoch1

    I'm new here... how does this work

    January 7, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • MagicPanties

      Poop in your hands, then make the sign of the cross.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Jason

      say something outlandish and wait for the crazies to pop out.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • John A

      Children, children.

      January 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  15. MagicPanties

    Was Jesus gay? I mean, all those apostles.

    January 7, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • peacefrog

      Let's look at the facts. He wore Birkenstocks, never married, hung out with 12 dudes, was "hung", and got nailed by Roman soldiers dressed like gladiators. My vote is yes....

      January 7, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  16. Dan

    The Hobbits were also dirty, walking around barefoot through the woods.

    January 7, 2013 at 8:55 am |
  17. Kevin Nivek

    Jesus was a carpenter. Now he's a landscaper. Oh, how times they have-a changed.

    January 7, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  18. MagicPanties

    Jesus wept... and then he pooped again.

    January 7, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • frank

      At least he wasn't among the rich of those times (Poop pious).

      January 7, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  19. Mark Ashe

    How can I say it... Jesus did-dled with himself too

    January 7, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  20. Which God?

    A prof at Liberty U. Says it all. This 'university' should not be accredited as it teaches falsehood, namely religion.

    January 7, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Jake

      Great point. Its amazing that a university these days teach this as anything other than history. If it were not for the money, they likely would.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Jason

      Oh, you mean like Harvard (school of Divinity), and Notre Dame? Yeah. Pul their accreditation, those losers.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:36 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.