23 July 2010

What colour was Jesus? Do we care?

Jesus Christ's probable image

"There's a reference in Paul which says it's disgraceful for a man to wear long hair, so it looks pretty sure that people of that period had to have reasonably short hair. The traditional depictions of Jesus with long flowing golden hair are probably inaccurate."

Deciding on skin colour was more difficult, though. But the earliest depictions of Jews, which date from the 3rd Century, are - as far as can be determined - dark-skinned.

"We do seem to have a relatively dark skinned Jesus. In contemporary parlance I think the safest thing is to talk about Jesus as 'a man of colour'." This probably means olive-coloured, he says. [source]

No one took time to tell me that the picture of the blue eyed, blond haired 'Jesus' hanging from the wall in my parent's living room was actually the family member of some European artist from the 16th century who was commissioned by the leaders of the white church to paint the Son of God in the image of a white man in order to enslave and dominate the original people of the scriptures. So I grew up thinking that I was God's little nappy headed step child. [source]

". . . Jesus and his family spent more than a fleeting moment in Egypt. It is not inconceivable, for example, that Jesus might well have learned to walk and talk right here in Africa. Further, Jesus and his Jewish family, being Afro-Asiatic in colour and culture, would have appeared more chocolate-brown than Caucasian in complexion -- more like a typically miscegenated African American, Kenyan Kikuyu or South African 'coloured'." (Gosnell L. Yorke, "Biblical hermeneutics: an Afrocentric perspective", Religion and Theology 2/2 (1995), pp. 145-158; reproduced on-line at unisa.ac.za)

In the December 2002 edition of Popular Mechanics, Jesus was shown as looking like a typical Galilean Semite. Among the points made was that the Bible records that Jesus' disciple, Judas had to point him out to those arresting him. The implied argument being that if Jesus' physical appearance differed that markedly from his disciples, then he would have been relatively easy to identify. [source]

The image in question is the one shown here.

Conservative Christians generally believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. They accept the statements in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. That is, Jesus' conception did not involve male sperm, This would imply that God either:
  • Created an living embryo with a unique human DNA in one of Mary's fallopian tubes.
  • Created special DNA which fertilized an ovum produced by Mary's body.
Thus, Jesus would have had DNA that was either 50% or 100% created uniquely by God. If so, then Jesus could have had any height, hair color, eye color, skin hue, style of nose, etc. He may or may not have resembled a typical Palestinian from 1st Century CE. [source]

Rethabile's editorial:
So this is what folks have been saying about the race and colour of Jesus of Nazareth. Will we ever know for sure? Do we care? I'd venture to say we probably don't. The deal, as far as I'm concerned, is that many of you out there will readily consider close to the truth this image, and not this one. Why is that, considering the region Jesus came from?

Science and computer programs say Jesus probably looked more like the image at the top of this post, than a blue-eyed, blond-haired man. So why is the world flooded with images of the latter and very few of the former? You tell me.

But I digress. I wanted to say that the deal for me is the fact that many use this ubiquitous image to fortify their personal beliefs about race: If even the Son of God is Caucasian, ... (please add the rest). As more and more "evidence" piles up about the probable appearance of Jesus, perhaps more than a few racists may look at other races differently, and perhaps with a little more respect.

We shouldn't really care what Jesus looked like; but now, all of us shouldn't care. And nobody should use whatever physical image of Jesus is floating around in art galleries to further their beliefs about mankind.

A picture is a strong message, and one that is easily registered and remembered (it speaks a thousand words). Given what we've been shown over the ages, does what scientists suggest as Jesus's image surprise you, shock you, revile you? Or none of the above? Care to tell us something about it?
Visit also: http://khanya.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/the-appearance-of-jesus-christ-redux/