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SUNDAY REVELATIONS: Did Jesus Defecate?

IS DEFECATION A SIN?

APPARENTLY SOME PEOPLE THINK SO.

The Daily Beast asks this question under the heading, “Did Jesus Poop?”

Avant News, a future news site, recently reported that a year from now, August 29, 2020,  the Holy See announced the  discovery of a fossilized lump of human feces believed to have once emerged from the body of Jesus Christ, Son of God,    Avant says the discovery led to a ” whirlpool of excitement and controversy throughout the altars of the religious world.”

Cave in which fossilized fecal matter of Jesus was discovered

Cave in which fossilized fecal matter of Jesus was discovered

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The Daily Beast discusses this issue in a serious manner. ” The New Testament tells us a great deal about some of the details of Jesus’ life: he was circumcised, he was rude to his parents, he walked around (sometimes on water), he rode donkeys, he cried, he got angry, and he shared meals with his followers. The Bible says absolutely nothing about Jesus’ sex life (although Dan Brown has hypothesized quite enough about that already), but it’s equally silent on the question of digestion. Everybody poops, but did Jesus?          If you’re thinking, “Yes, he was a human being, But oh my G-o-d why are you bringing this up? Talking about Jesus’ bowel movements is like discussing my parent’s sex life,” then that’s understandable. But if it seems like we at The Daily Beast have jumped the shark this week, then you’ll be interested to know that this was a centuries-long debate among the Church Fathers, for whom digestion was often a much more important question than sex.

from Avant: “When I first saw the Sacred Stool of Galilee, of course my immediate reaction was to shout ‘Heavens to Betsy!’,” a flushing Rowan Faulkner, Archbishop of Canterbury, said. “If it can be conclusively verified that the fossilized remains did in fact once belong to Christ, the Jesus Feces will become perhaps the most important sacred relic in the entire Christian world.”

The fossilized remnants were found buried nearly 40 feet deep in a submerged cave in the rocky soil of Nahariya at the future site of the Park Plaza Hotel Nahariya. Religious historians believe Jesus may have used the cave as a private sanctuary to which He could periodically withdraw from the worshipful crowds to move His bowels undisturbed during His long sojourn in Galilee. Small ancient fragments of fossilized parchment found nearby on which are inscribed the words “Uncle Herod’s Bathroom Reader”, support this supposition.

Carbon dating of the fossil pegged its age at just under 1,990 years, meaning it was likely excreted when the Messiah was roughly the age of thirty. The Jesus Feces has already been determined to possess mystical properties of healing, further supporting its authenticity.

“If you touch the Sacred Stool,” Thomas Taylor, a bishop of the United Methodist Church and one of the first to examine the relic, said, “you get a staph infection. But touch it again and the staph infection goes away. It’s truly miraculous.”

Gordon Willey, an archeologist with the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, said it is exceedingly rare for human excrement to survive in fossilized form.

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Valentinus came close to being elected the bishop of Rome (you know, the role of the pope). Later, at the insistence of those who disagreed with him, he would be removed from his position and, later still, condemned as a heretic. But, his views on holy defecation were widely seen as canon. In a letter to a man called Agathopous, Valentinus  wrote that Jesus “was continent, enduring all things. Jesus digested divinity: he ate and drank in a special way without excreting his solids. He had such a great capacity for continence that the nourishment within him was not corrupted, for he did not experience corruption.”  Christian philosopher and teacher Clement of Alexandria (now a saint, if that matters to you), agreed with Valentinus that Jesus didn’t do number two.” Clement also wrote that Jesus being divine didn’t have to eat but he did so to avoid giving the impression that he wasn’t human.  Epiphanius, a late fourth century monk and bishop who spent a great deal of his time denouncing heretics, denies that Jesus ever eliminated solid waste (Panarion 77). 

“I don’t know whether that particular bowel movement once belonged to Christ or not, nor do I know of any way to prove it one way or another. But excrement, human or otherwise, usually decomposes very rapidly. Fossilized dung is really an archeological miracle in itself – I don’t see any need to ascribe it mystical powers.”

The Sacred Stool has already embroiled the Christian and Muslim worlds in layers of controversy, with various branches and denominations of the major religions all claiming equal ownership of the relic. Currently the feces has been claimed by His Holiness Pope Gregory XVII who wishes to house it at the Pontifical Museum of Christian Antiquities in the Lateran Palace adjacent to the Basilica di San Giovanni in Toletta in Rome, for further examination and display on high religious holidays, but the Pontiff’s claim is open to widespread dispute. The disparate claims to the Feces have already escalated to the point at which armed conflict over the relic is not beyond the realm of possibility.

“His Holiness Pope Gregory XVII, who was granted infallibility and a direct communication link with Godfollowing his election last year by the papal conclave in a five-step runoff ballot,” Rev. Luigi Bonaventura, papal spokesman, said, “has pronounced that God, in His infinite wisdom, has assured His Holiness the Sacred Stool belongs here in Rome, at the cradle and crux of the Christian world, where it will be protected and displayed in a marble water closet already under construction by our papal masons.”

Pope Gregory XVII, Rev. Bonaventura said, believes the Jesus Feces may be usable as a trump card in his bid to strengthen the bonds between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church, in particular the pivotal Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, a conjoining seen by His Holiness as vital to counteracting the “creeping de-religiosity” of Europe.

“His Holiness is prepared to offer both the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate unlimited visiting rights to the Jesus Feces,” Rev. Bonaventura said, “with a custody arrangement to be negotiated that would grant the two primary Orthodox Sees possession of the Stool one weekend per month on alternate months.”

The offer was immediately rejected by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who, through an intermediary, said he “wasn’t going to take any crap from Rome”.

“The Pope is welcome to visit the Inviolate Log in the Archdiocese of Constantinople any time he wants,” the intermediary said, “but it belongs here permanently.”

Rev. Bonaventura countered that His Holiness was prepared to defend the Roman Catholic Church’s sacred right to the Holy Loaf by any means necessary, including activating the Vatican’s highly feared contingent of Swiss Guards armed with versatile little folding knives.

Meanwhile, the Jesus Feces has been counter-claimed by virtually all branches of the Protestant church, including the Methodists, the Evangelicals, the Anglican/Episcopals, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, the Quakers, and the Scientologists, the latter of whom do not believe the Feces possesses sacred powers as such but who wish to use it as fuel for their spaceship. Muslim leaders, for whom Jesus is revered as an important prophet, have also stated their fervent wish to take possession of the feces but intend to remain prudently distanced from the melee “before we get blamed for anything else”, according to a spokesman.

A leading Fundamentalist Evangelical, Rev. P. Jay Holee IV, said “The Jesus Feces, as the first genuine sacred artifact we know of that has passed through the actual Body of the Messiah, is the closest any living man will ever get to the love, mercy and healing powers of Christ. It belongs to us, and we’re prepared to kill anyone who tries to keep it from us.”

The final fate of the Jesus Feces remains undecided, with armies currently being gathered at all corners of the globe and the rhetoric surrounding the Stool growing increasingly heated. With voices of anger growing more strident while voices of tolerance fade in the cacophony, the eagerness of all sides to gain sole possession of the Jesus Feces risks sparking a tragic international manifestation of greed, conflict and destruction not seen since Roman times.

By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor

If you’re thinking, “Yes, he was a human being, But oh my G-o-d why are you bringing this up? Talking about Jesus’ bowel movements is like discussing my parent’s sex life,” then that’s understandable. But if it seems like we at The Daily Beast have jumped the shark this week, then you’ll be interested to know that this was a centuries-long debate among the Church Fathers, for whom digestion was often a much more important question than sex.

In the second century a popular Christian teacher named Valentinus wrote in a letter to a man called Agathopous that Jesus “was continent, enduring all things. (The risen) Jesus digested divinity: he ate and drank in a special way without excreting his solids. He had such a great capacity for continence that the nourishment within him was not corrupted, for he did not experience corruption.” In other words Jesus was special and never defecated although, as scholarChristoph Markschies has written, Valentinus was talking about Jesus after his resurrection so we are already in “special” territory.

At the time Valentinus was a priest and a teacher in Rome. At one point he even came close to being elected the bishop of Rome (you know, the role of the pope). Later, at the insistence of those who disagreed with him, he would be removed from his position and, later still, condemned as a heretic. For many, though, as Dr. Stephen Young of Appalachian State University told The Daily Beast, he was “a popular Christian teacher who offered one among several competing ‘deeper’ understandings of Jesus and God… [a bit] like contemporary Christian teachers who aren’t so much pastors of specific churches but … who attract the interest of Christians from all sorts of different Evangelical churches or denominations.” It’s not really fair to dismiss him out of hand as a heretic.

Still, you’re thinking, Valentinus turned out to be a heretic, so maybe his opinion doesn’t count? Perhaps, but there were other “orthodox” Christians who agreed with Valentinus on this point. Ismo Dunderberg, a professor at the University of Helsinki and author of Beyond Gnosticism, pointed out that the orthodox Christian philosopher and teacher Clement of Alexandria (now a saint, if that matters to you), agreed: “The one point that Clement agreed with Valentinus on was that Jesus didn’t do number two.” Clement also wrote that Jesus being divine didn’t have to eat but he did so to avoid giving the impression that he wasn’t human.

Why is everyone talking about this? Well there’s a lot at stake here. Much of early Christian theological debate is taken up with the issue of how Jesus is both a god and a human being. Early on there were some early Christians who thought that Jesus only “seemed” to have a human body but in reality was a god. You can see why Christians who held this position thought Jesus never went to the bathroom. This position, which is known as Doceticism, would come to be rejected as heresy, but those who wanted to argue that Jesus was truly human have to explain how the combination of humanity and divinity works. While they are doing that they are also trying to avoid the idea that the divinity in Jesus is somehow defiled by or corrupted by all the disgusting aspects of human bodies. Excrement, in particular, was just the kind of disgusting thing that people wanted to avoid.

As late as the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., a period when pretty much all Christians agree that Jesus had a real human body, Christians are still debating the poop question. Epiphanius, a late fourth century monk and bishop who spent a great deal of his time denouncing heretics, denies that Jesus ever eliminated solid waste (Panarion 77). Kelley Spoerl, a professor at St. Anselm College and the author of several important articles on this subject, told me that what’s interesting is the context in which Epiphanius does this. During this section of the Panarion he was fighting with a group of Christians known as Apollinarians. Apollinarians believed that Jesus did not have a rational human soul and Epiphanius (and all modern Christians) strongly rejected this idea. Where Epiphanius was willing to agree with the Apollinarians was on the question of bathroom visits. As Spoerl told me: “Epiphanius agrees with those Apollinarians who think Jesus did not excrete solid waste even though he disagrees with their other theories about Jesus’s lack of a rational human soul or the claim that Jesus’s body/flesh is somehow different from ours.” So once again you have theologians who disagree on other points of this issue ‘reaching across the aisle’ on the question of digestion.

What’s uniting these conversations about Jesus’ digestion, Spoerl told me “is a clear desire to affirm the historical, physical reality of Jesus’s body—but, in Epiphanius’s case, to avoid the perceived defilement that the body brings”

In order to make his case Epiphanius appeals to another well-known case in which people may not have excreted, namely, the Moses-led Israelites who wandered in the wilderness eating manna supplied by God. Rabbinic interpretations of what happened in the wilderness maintained that as the Israelites were eating “the bread of angels” (manna) they didn’t excrete it because it was “bread that is absorbed in the limbs” (Sifré to Numbers 88).  Though Epiphanius doesn’t mention them, there were ancient Greeks who were also rumoured never to have gone to the bathroom. Dunderberg mentioned that two philosophers discussed in the ancient compilation Lives of the Philosophers never excreted solid waste either.

In part this conversation reflects a cultural abhorrence of excrement. It’s not so pleasant. Early Christian descriptions of hell describe people buried up to their necks in piles of the stuff. You can see why people don’t want to associate it with an incarnate deity.

Simultaneously, there are some serious medical underpinnings to the debate. Ancient medical thought about how digestion works seems to have been driving a lot of this conversation. Claire Bubb, a medical historian at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU, told me that most ancient theories of digestion relied on the concept of heat and the individual capacity to produce it. “Aristotle, in whose theories heat plays a critical role in general, leans particularly hard into this correlation. Heat for him is unambiguously what turns ingested food into nourishment suitable for the body. Further, he believes that the degree of heat is variable in different individuals, but that some are closer to perfect than others.”

Because digestion is so individual, Bubb said, “It would not be hard for someone working within the Aristotelian tradition to take this claim to the next level and argue that a person with the most perfect degree of heat would be capable of most perfectly digesting his foods.” For anyone who subscribed to this system of thought the claim that Jesus never digested food wasn’t a denial of his humanity; it was an endorsement of his perfect body.

At the same time, not everyone agreed. Some people, Bubb said, thought that digestion was about crushing and grinding, not heat. The Roman era doctor Galen argued that “the quantity of waste products [depends on] the nature of foods consumed.”  For Galen “radishes… are barely food at all and most of their substance is simply not suitable for assimilation, with the result that almost as much as is consumed must be excreted. Even a perfectly constructed body could not avoid this.” So you can see why other Christians would have disagreed with Valentinus and Epiphanius about the issue of excrement.

Of course modern theories of digestion are more Galenic than Aristotelian. If you want to say that Jesus was truly human, you have to admit that he used the bathroom. For the pragmatically minded there’s the issue of nutrition: Jesus lived on a high-fibre ancient Mediterranean diet; we have to imagine that life-long constipation was the least of his problems.

Today there’s really no ‘official’ position on Jesus’ bathroom habits. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, following the statements of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE , that Jesus is “truly man and truly God” and is “like us in all things but sin.” As excretion is a normal part of being human, Jesus would have passed solid waste just like everyone else.


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