Was Jesus White or Black? And, Does His Skin Color Matter In Christianity?
I grew up believing Jesus was white, thanks to the artistically drawn portraits of Jesus and movies that depict him as a white individual with long black hair and blue/green eyes. Someone might point out the most important factor to consider is not how Jesus is represented but if the representation is retelling his life history as recounted in the Bible. That person is right. Nonetheless, people tend to believe what they see or associate themselves with a famous figure whom they've seen rather than whom they've never seen. Hence, many people believe Jesus was white because the images they've seen of him on drawn portraits and films depict him as such.
Furthermore, people care how Biblical or ancient figures are depicted on screens. Their physical appearance matters to a large extent than what they said. This has resulted in a particular race undermining other races because they believe the Biblical figures they’ve come to associate with originated from their race, when the facts don't align with their beliefs. They believe their race is better off than other races by the evidence of the great feats the Biblical figures performed.
In reality, everywhere, people believe Jesus is a white person because that's what the mass media has conditioned them to believe as the truth. Whereas the Bible has provided no hint as to the skin color of Jesus; unknowingly, many people believe Jesus was white because of the never ending artistically drawn portraits depicting him as white, and the numerous Jesus' films that have never altered from a white Jesus to another 'race' Jesus.
In countries dominated by white people, it matters to many white Christians how Jesus is portrayed. They will warm up to the idea Jesus was a white person than a black one. They won't serve a black Jesus. It can never happen. In countries or regions dominated by black people, Jesus is portrayed as a black person. In China, the Chinese Christians believe Jesus is Chinese. Practically, every nation, ethnic group or race claims Jesus originated from that specific race, ethnic group or country. In China, many Chinese Christians believe God is Chinese as is the case with many North American Christians who believe God is white. Even green aliens might as well claim Jesus originated from their race because we don't want to accept Jesus is a universal figure, not restricted to a certain race or ethnic group.
We live in a world that has never grown tired of discriminating for a variety of reasons, chief among the skin color of an individual. We do this to assert ourselves as better off than other races or ethnic groups by the evidence of a certain celebrity or famous person, who did something remarkable, originated from our race or ethnic group thus making us more special than others. We want to prove, and rightly believe so, that people from other races or ethnic groups are no better than us; they are primitive.
What many Christians forget is Jesus didn't come to earth to identify with a specific ethnic group, race or nationality. He came to deliver a message from God and to prove to the world what he preached or uttered was in fact the truth by the evidence of rising up from death. None of the Gospel writers have described Jesus' physical appearance because they knew his appearance doesn't matter. What matters is the message Jesus came to deliver from God.If the Gospel writers found it suffice not to describe Jesus' appearance, why does it bother many Christians whether Jesus was white or black? Is his skin color important than his message?
Armstrong Williams, the author of the book Reawakening Virtues, states, "By "proving" Jesus is one skin color or another, many people believe it discredits the history of another race while empowering their own. If Jesus were white, then God is white and favours Caucasians. On the other hand, proving he was black serves to affirm black aesthetics, culture and history. Furthermore, "authenticating" Jesus's heritage can insinuate that one group is oppressing the truth in order to subvert history and a race of peoples." He further says, "Every insistence that Jesus is actually such and such ethnicity only serves to demean Christianity, obfuscate Jesus's message, and create hate and bitterness."
Edward J. Blum, Professor of History at San Diego State University, in an article titled The Whiteman Jesus, notes that Americans care deeply the manner in which Biblical personalities are portrayed in the flesh. "Whether discussing the darkness (and Obama-ness) of Satan or the 'sexy whiteness' of Jesus, the ethnic 'look' of the characters has been just as important (if not more so) than what they have said or done on screen."
The Origin of White Jesus
So, how did the 'white' Jesus come to being? Joan E. Taylor, Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Jerusalem at Kings College, in an article that appeared in Irish Times titled, What did Jesus really look like, as a Jew in 1st Century Judaea? notes that the white Jesus every person has come to recognize as portrayed in art, film and literature is the result of cultural history. He states, "The early depictions of Jesus that set the template for the way he continues to be depicted today were based on the image of an enthroned emperor and influenced by presentations of pagan gods. The long hair and beard are imported specifically from the iconography of the Graeco-Roman world. Some of the oldest surviving depictions of Jesus portray him as essentially a younger version of Jupiter, Neptune or Serapis. As time went on the halo from the sun god Apollo was added to Jesus’s head to show his heavenly nature. In early Christian art, he often had the big, curly hair of Dionysus." This, he notes, "was never to show Jesus as a man, but to make theological points about who Jesus was as Christ (King, Judge) and divine Son. They have evolved over time to the standard "Jesus" we recognize."
Jesus Transcends Color
The Ethnicity or Race of Jesus
A number of scholarly works have concluded Jesus' skin color was olive-brown. His appearance during his existence on earth closely resembles the current Middle Eastern Jews. He was neither white nor black, that is, neither leaning too much on the white side nor on the black side. This should offer comfort and settle the case as to Jesus' skin color, especially among the whites and blacks who form the large bulk of people contending Jesus was white or black.
Taylor, the author of What did Jesus Look Like? states, "As for Jesus's body I've consulted experts on ancient Skeletons in Israel. What I have learned is that Judaceans of this time were closest biologically to Iraqi Jews of the contemporary world. In terms of a color patter then, think dark-brown to black hair, deep brown eyes, olive-brown skin. Jesus would have been a man of Middle Eastern appearance. In terms of height, an average man of this time stood 166cm (5ft 5in) tall."
For a Christian to state Jesus is white or black and in effect affirming God is white or black is not biblical. The Bible is silent on Jesus' skin color therefore we should respect that omission. It is for our benefit to affirm the universality of Jesus as the Savior of the world, not of a specific race or nationality. In God's kingdom, there is neither Jew nor Greek, master or slave, circumcised or uncircumcised, Jew or Gentile, black or white. Additionally, God is Spirit and spirits don’t have bodies. How is it possible to state a spirit is white or blue in color when it doesn’t exist in physical form?
Does it mean people of a different race are cursed because God is white? Do we serve a biased or racist God. Does it mean Jesus is biased towards a certain race or ethnic group? Does it mean a certain race is special to God than another one?
Your Take: Is Jesus White or Black?
What is your view: Does It Matter If Jesus is Black or White
Does It Matter Jesus Was Black or White?
Why do Christians want to associate Jesus as having originated from their race instead of accepting Jesus is a universal figure not restricted to a particular ethnic group, race or nationality? Is Jesus' skin color more important than the message he came to deliver? In the heavenly realms, Jesus doesn't exist as a white or black person. There is nowhere in the Bible that states Jesus is black or white. Anyone who claims Jesus is of a certain race is twisting God's word, in effect signifying that person is literally twisting God's hand.
Jesus can be any color any person would like to color him. He might as well be yellow or orange. If Christians accept the messenger for the message he came to deliver and not what he looked like, then we would be living as God intended us to through what Jesus had to undergo to deliver us from the bondage of sin and its result, death. The Bible doesn’t say God loves a certain ethnic group or people of a particular race, for instance, John 3:16 clearly shows God loves the world; not a particular race or ethnic group.
To this end, "To get caught up in futile discussions of an unknowable and trivial tangent only serves to belittle ourselves and our brothers and sisters. The only race which Jesus belonged to that matter is the human race."