New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow isn’t unaccustomed to controversy. Last year, he was the focus of both praise — and degradation – as a direct result of his public expressions of faith. Tebow’s well-known “Tebowing” prayer stance gained national and international infamy, as we’ve highlighted. He even inspired a line of Jesus jerseys. But this week, the football player is receiving some criticism for a very different reason — the supposed “sexy Jesus” picture that is present inside GQ Magazine. And we’ve found some evidence that suggests not everyone is getting the full story.

Tim Tebow Gets Criticized for Sexy Jesus Picture in GQ Magazine

Photo Credit: GQ Magazine

As a result of the image (above) that shows Tebow with his arms stretched out and his legs crossed in a similar fashion to Jesus Christ, some critics are lashing out and calling the popular player a “fraud,” while accusing him of taking “sacrilegious” actions. The Christian Post has more:

Craig Carton of the “Boomer and Carton” show on WFAN accused Tebow of being a “fraud” based on the photo where Tebow has his arms stretched out and his legs crossed in a similar fashion to Jesus on the cross. The photo is among four featured in GQ’s story, headlined “Have You Accepted Tim Tebow as Your QB and Sunday Savior?”

“A guy that fosters the Good Book, who is everyone’s favorite Christian, to pose like Jesus on the cross with no shirt on sexy time is disgusting … and fraudulent because nobody that believes in it would ever pose like Jesus,” Carton said Tuesday morning on his show.

“Is that not sacrilegious?”

Tim Tebow Gets Criticized for Sexy Jesus Picture in GQ Magazine

Photo Credit: GQ Magazine

But while critics like Carton are frustrated by the image, there are a few elements worth noting. The picture is old. In fact, it comes from Tebow’s college days when he was the quarterback for the Florida Gators (unfortunately, GQ has it listed under a link on the article that reads “See the Photos from Tim Tebow’s GQ Shoot”).

This, of course, doesn’t dismiss concern or criticism over the image, but it does help to put it into context. It’s not as though Tebow willingly took the image in recent days or months in an effort to spawn controversy. Considering the article’s aforementioned headline, though, it’s clear that GQ was looking to use faith as a hook in the article; the image likely assisted them with this cause.

Here’s just a brief snippet from the GQ piece that showcases what its author, Devin Gordon, had to say about the player (a narrative that certainly fits the picture; caution: language):

Here is where the cult of Tim Tebow departs from the world of measurable fact and enters the realm of religiosity, where every one of his accomplishments, no matter how modest—Oh, my goodness, he beat the deeply shitty Miami Dolphins!—gets transformed into evidence of divine Providence, simply because Tebow says it is. Never mind that 75 percent of all football players credit Jesus after every win. Tebow’s devout Christianity is devoutier than yours. When he thanks Jesus, Jesus winks back.

This, really, is the root of my beef with Tebowmania: It has nothing to do with football. It’s a sales pitch—a sensation built on evangelism, not ability, powered by people who see a chance to turn the NFL into the next front of the culture war. And now that culture war is coming to my team.

Now, for some more context. In further explaining the image, Larry Brown writes, “In one photo Tebow poses on a football field with his arms spread like Jesus Christ on the cross. It turns out the photo was shot while Tebow was in college at the University of Florida, but it was digitally altered to remove Gators signage from the background and made black and white to obscure the Gators colors from Tebow’s pants.” Brown goes on to wonder if the picture was snapped when Tebow may have been younger and more naive.

The New York Post, serving as one example that has used the image in the past, published it back in March 2012. Based on the colors and signage, the changes seem to match Brown’s description:

Tim Tebow Gets Criticized for Sexy Jesus Picture in GQ Magazine

Photo Credit: NY Post/Mark Selinger/Management+Artists

Carton went on to call Tebow the ”biggest Bible thumper in all of sports today” (you can listen to the show here). Regardless of whether this is true, what do you think — does Tebow deserve the criticism he’s receiving for an image that was taken years ago?

(H/T: Sports Grid)