The white man Jesus

There’s a reason why the Bible is silent about the colour of Jesus’ skin. So why has this become an issue for our age?

by 1900 1,900 words
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Portuguese actor Diogio Morgado plays Jesus in the History Channel's The Bible mini-series. Photo courtesy Lightworkers Media / Hearst Productions Inc

Portuguese actor Diogio Morgado plays Jesus in the History Channel's The Bible mini-series. Photo courtesy Lightworkers Media / Hearst Productions Inc

Edward J Blum is a professor of history at San Diego State University. His latest co-authored book The Color of Christ (2012), was named one of Publishers Weekly's best books of 2012 in religion.

Last month, American television audiences were shocked: when Satan showed up in the History Channel’s new mini-series The Bible, he looked strikingly like President Barack Obama. Responses were quick, and they came on all types of media from Twitter and Facebook to CNN and Fox News. Complaints sounded so loudly that the producers of the show were forced to respond, calling it ‘nonsense’ that they purposefully cast the Moroccan actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni as Satan to look like Obama. The controversy hasn’t hurt the ratings for the 10-hour series. With more than 10 million people in the US watching each episode, The Bible has been the biggest cable TV hit of the year.

One of the reasons for its popularity is that Americans care deeply about how biblical figures are represented 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. This is not the first time US audiences have fixated on the portrayal of Biblical bodies. In 2004, they flocked to movie theatres to watch Jesus tortured and killed in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. In that film, Jesus never spoke English, but his brutalised body was on display front and centre. In previous decades, people asked Martin Luther King Jr what Jesus looked like, and during the 1920s, Americans debated whether it was appropriate to show Jesus in films at all.

In the Bible itself, bodies matter, but not the way they do now. The ancient texts have sick bodies and healed bodies, pierced bodies and resurrected bodies. But for the most part, the Bible is pretty quiet about the colour of those bodies’ skin or the tone of their hair. To understand our contemporary obsession with the actors’ bodies in The Bible mini-series, we need to consider why something that is so silent in the Bible has become so salient in our approaches to it.

Historically, many religious teachers in the US have been keen to downplay the physical characteristics of figures in the Bible, warning that such attention to the merely manifest might divert one from true spirituality. In colonial New England, Puritans differentiated themselves from Catholics by refusing to display Jesus, God, or the Madonna in their churches or on printed materials. Puritans were not absolute in their iconoclasm: they were fine with other representations, and regularly used small figures in educational books. Satan, moreover, was sometimes represented as a horned, winged, and emaciated dark figure (he was, after all, the ‘prince of darkness’). But to see the devil or one of his minions in the flesh was a terrifying experience, and one that could get you executed in the colonies.

Moroccan actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni plays Satan in the History Channel's The Bible mini-series. Photo courtesy Lightworkers Media / Hearst Productions Inc Moroccan actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni plays Satan in the History Channel's The Bible mini-series. Photo courtesy Lightworkers Media / Hearst Productions Inc

Throughout the 19th century, as new technologies allowed for the mass production and distribution of Bible images, some religious teachers worried that they could hinder the mission of the Church. One Presbyterian minister in New York City cautioned his congregants in the 1880s not to trust the imagery of Jesus they saw in picture-book Bibles and on stained-glass windows. ‘It is a remarkable thing in the history of Christ that nowhere have we any clue to His physical identity. The world owns no material portraiture of His physical person. All the pictures of Christ by the great artists are mere fictions.’

Just as it was time for slavery to end, it was also time for women and men of colour to refuse the language and images that associated darkness with evil, and whiteness with good

There was a serious theological reason for that minister’s concern: the lack of biblical detail about Christ’s physical features was crucial to the universal appeal of Christianity: ‘If He were particularised and localised — if, for example, He were made a man with a pale face — then the man of the ebony face would feel that there was a greater distance between Christ and him than between Christ and his white brother.’ Instead, because the Bible refused to describe Jesus in terms of racial features, his gospel could appeal to all. Only in this way could the Church be a place where the ‘Caucasian and Mongolian and African sit together at the Lord’s table, and we all think alike of Jesus, and we all feel that He is alike our brother’.

The theme of a universal Jesus has been a common response from American Christians to the question of what Jesus looked like. In 1957, Martin Luther King Jr’s advice column in Ebony magazine received a letter that asked: ‘Why did God make Jesus white, when the majority of peoples in the world are non-white?’ King answered with the essence of his political and religious philosophy. He denied that the colour of one’s skin determined the content of one’s character, and for King there was no better example than Christ. ‘The colour of Jesus’ skin is of little or no consequence,’ King reassured his readers, because skin colour ‘is a biological quality which has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the personality’. Jesus transcended race, and he mattered ‘not in His colour, but in His unique God-consciousness and His willingness to surrender His will to God’s will. He was the son of God, not because of His external biological makeup, but because of His internal spiritual commitment.’

But in a society that separated people based on colour, God’s son wasn’t the only challenge for image-makers: the devil was, too. During the Civil War, one northern African-American, T Morris Chester, had announced that just as it was time for slavery to end, it was also time for women and men of colour to refuse the language and images that associated darkness with evil, and whiteness with good. Nearly a century before Malcolm X gained notoriety for such claims, Chester asked his fellows to wield consumer power to effect change. If, he said, you ‘want a scene from the Bible, and this cloven-footed personage is painted black, say to the vendor, that your conscientious scruples will not permit you to support so gross a misrepresentation, and when the Creator and his angels are presented as white, tell him that you would be guilty of sacrilege, in encouraging the circulation of a libel upon the legions of Heaven’.

By refusing the idea of the dark devil, Chester was going up against centuries of Christian iconography. Throughout medieval Europe, it was entirely regular to describe Satan as dark or black. Witches were known for practising ‘dark arts’, and in early colonial America when British immigrants to the New World accused others of being witches, they too conflated darkness with the demonic. The devil was everywhere in Salem in 1692, and he could take any number of physical forms. He did not always come in blackness or redness: Sarah Bibber saw ‘a little man like a minister with a black coat on and he pinched me by the arm and bid me to go along with him’. But most often he did: one witnessed Satan as a ‘little black bearded man’. Another saw him as ‘a black thing of a considerable bigness’, and yet another beheld the devil in the form of a black dog. The devil came as a Jew and as a Native American as well. In The Wonders of the Invisible World (1693), the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather associated Indians and black people with the devil: he wrote that ‘Swarthy Indians’ were often in the company of ‘Sooty Devils’, and Satan presented himself as ‘a small Black man’.

Because of America’s history and its contemporary demographics, there is almost no way to depict Bible characters without causing alarm

In the 20th and 21st centuries, debates over how to depict biblical figures have grown louder and more contentious. In large part, this is because of the increased importance of visual imagery in US culture. Whether at the movies or on TV, in magazines or on the internet, Americans produce and consume images at a staggering rate. Even in the 1930s, some African-American teenagers who took part in sociological surveys answered the question ‘What colour was Jesus?’ with ‘All the pictures of Him I’ve seen are white.’ That seemed definitive enough. Decades later, when Phillip Wiebe, professor of philosophy at Trinity Western University in Canada, interviewed people for his book Visions of Jesus (1997), a man named Jim Link reported having a visionary experience in which Jesus ‘had a beard and brown shoulder-length hair, and looked like the popular images of Jesus in pictures’.

At times, films have tried to avoid controversy by obscuring biblical characters, as in Ben-Hur (1959) or The Robe (1953). In those cases, we see the back or the arm of Jesus, but never his face. At other times, filmmakers have seemed to beg for controversy, such as the casting of the black actor Carl Anderson in the role of Judas Iscariot in the film Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), released just five years after Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.

Questions of race and identity have now become inescapable elements of any public presentation of the Bible. Mel Gibson digitally altered The Passion of the Christ (2004) to transform the actor Jim Caviezel’s eyes from blue to brown — in an attempt to make his Jesus character look more Jewish. But even with this change, and a prosthetic nose attached to Caviezel’s face, some critics nonetheless denounced the film for presenting Jesus as a typical white American man, excluding, as those earlier ministers had worried, the ‘man of the ebony face’.

The Bible mini-series is yet another example of how Americans have portrayed Bible characters visually, debated what those characters did or should look like, and discussed whether those figures should be put into flesh at all. The debates haven’t simply been about religion. They have also shown how entangled politics and religion are in America, with questions such as whether President Obama is working on the side of God or the side of the devil. And big money is involved — whether in the form of high ratings and advertising revenue from TV and film aimed at the huge evangelical Christian market, or in the lucrative industries that publish Bibles and tracts depicting, perhaps unwittingly, Jesus and the devil on opposite sides of a racial divide.

Because of America’s history and its contemporary demographics, there is almost no way to depict Bible characters without causing alarm. To call Jesus ‘black’ signals political values that are associated with the radical left. In 2008, President Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright almost cost him the Democratic nomination because of his claims that ‘Jesus was a poor black man’. However, to present Jesus as white in a society where African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latino Americans make up increasing numbers of the population is quickly understood as a code for a conservative worldview. Little wonder, then, that some Americans are choosing to describe Jesus as ‘brown’ as a way to avoid the white-black binary. If one attends an anti-conservative rally in the US, for instance, one is likely to find a poster that reads: ‘Obama is not a brown-skinned, anti-war socialist who gives away free health care. You’re thinking of Jesus.’

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Comments

  • tomi

    I do not think the portrayal of Jesus in any color matters. Just do not give it an attention, it would diminish by itself.

    • http://alenonimo.com.br/ Alenonimo

      It does if he really existed. But it's easy to come up with rationalizations when the choices are "he didn't really existed" or "he looked like a middle eastern guy".

    • Salman Gurung

      Roger that, Tomi. Color ain't matter, what matters is his ideas. Moreover, Jesus is an idea, that's how people should take it,

  • LewisL

    Rev Wright's negative impact on President Obama's candidacy was not solely due to his characterization of Jesus as black but his history on arguably anti-white rhetoric.

  • lol

    Just call it what it is: white americans would hate to see a dark skinned jesus because they are racist, end of.

    irony being that jesus looked probably like osama bin ladin or saddam hussein.

    • http://twitter.com/Van_der_Leun Gerard Vanderleun

      Please do not display your colonized mind in public. It is most unattractive.

      • thedude

        why, its true

      • http://twitter.com/antonywu Antony Wu

        So it should be left buried and never to be discussed because it is unattractive to you?

        • http://profiles.google.com/neotechni Techni Myoko

          No, cause his statement is as racist as he thinks all white people are.
          Thus its not truth, just the product of a bigotted pathetic mind

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rob-Rivers/100003264342264 Rob Rivers

      l0l = troll

    • DariusPicard

      People who see racism in everything are racist. Whether you like or dislike someone or some group because of a physical feature or some personal action you are prejudice.

    • http://profiles.google.com/neotechni Techni Myoko

      You just made a racist statement there,, kettle

    • tooCents

      Meh, no doubt you need to take Jesus' advice and remove the beam out of your own eye. I forgive your bigoted generalization.

    • DList

      @lol...speaking of racists

    • Plea For Sanity

      "white americans would hate to see a dark skinned jesus because they are racist"?

      There are not enough Americans who are not 'white' to have been able to elect Obama twice in a row as American President.

      So some white Americans may be racist, but many are clearly not.

      That said, Jesus probably was 'dark skinned'.

  • http://twitter.com/Van_der_Leun Gerard Vanderleun

    As for ".... almost cost him the Democratic nomination because of his claims that ‘Jesus was a poor black man’" you really weren't paying attention at all, were you? Or, if you were, you've decided to opt for a little passing revisionism, haven't you? Either way, it betrays a certain feebleness of intellect you need to work on correcting lest it undermine your simulacrum of thought.

    • Suman

      This is a good example of somebody trying to show off their superior writing skill by using big words.

      • ArchiesBoy

        Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. ;-)

  • Whose Priorities?

    This article seems to ignore that Jesus was Middle Eastern, however that looked 2000 years ago. He could have been more "black" or more "white" but was probably not one or the other alone. My bigger beef is that Jesus is always super handsome when the Bible says he was very average.

  • Matt Jones

    Because man created God in their own image. So of course Americans see Jesus as a hip looking white guy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tedmrak Thomas Mrak

      Jesus- The Original Hippie

  • Bob Singer

    Look up the definition of caucasian. It is " the general physical type of some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia/Middle East, Asia Minor, Central Asia and South Asia." Where was Jesus from? Western Asia/Middle East. Therefore......

  • Bingo5

    The concept of race didn't formally exist until around 1754 when a "sociologist" namde David Hume wrote a book called "Of National Characters" using the term "Negroes" in an attempt to establish whites as superior to "dark-skinned races".

    • Bufod

      Bull.

  • q_the_physicist

    The reason the bible doesn't give a description of Jesus is because he never existed; when Paul made Christianity, he imagined Jesus as a god in heaven.

    • James

      True. Amazing people are so afraid to think and read about the history of theology and comparative religion.

      • DList

        @James..which, apparently includes you. Amazing. LOL

    • fhcgsps

      omg...@q_the_physicity: are you crazy or what? do you not care that you post such ignorant foolishness for the world to see? you don't have to agree with anything that anyone posts, says or believes...but PLEASE...at least bother to be informed. otherwise it's an enormous waste o' time for people who are truly interested in engaging in meaningful dialogue. you just made me happy i went to catholic school...and i didn't think that was possible!

      • Salman Gurung

        Everyone has got right to have/say/express their Opinion. Just that he said "Jesus" is a creation of a human mind, it started hurting your catholic emotions? Gimmeabreak, will ya!?

        • fhcgsps

          i love differing opinions...as long as they are well informed and not just stuff pulled out of a body cavity in order to get a reaction from people. differences of opinion help people understand each other...but only if the intention is not to be insulting or inflammatory to others.

  • DariusPicard

    Saying that that actor resembles the President a. flatters him to much and b. fits with his narcissism.

  • Alef

    Jesus was a jew. King solomin married queen Sheba which was black, So their offsprings were at least partly black. There were (and still are) jews in all colours and flavours...

    • DList

      Thats the stupidest thing I have read today.

  • James

    Jesus is never portrayed as any nationality in the Bible because he is not historical. Jesus never existed in history. Look up comparative religion and then maybe humans can relate with each other based on spiritual oneness. All the stories of monotheism are related and that is a beautiful thing.

    • http://www.jiriruzek.net/photography-courses/ Jiří Růžek

      He existed. As a man. The stories about God are another topic...

    • fhcgsps

      you know....i took several semesters of comparative religion at a fine jesuit institution...and never ran across that fine fact. hmmmm.

      btw...have any of you authorities on how jesus is portrayed ever bothered to travel to asia? i have. there are many catholic churches there with fine artwork portraying jesus as (guess what!) -- asian. no shit. so perhaps...just perhaps...this entire topic has more to do with art than it does religion? perhaps.

  • laverne_keller

    One idea that is never mentioned in any of these discussions is that both God, Jesus, and Satan/Lucifer quite likely exist not as corporeal beings, but rather as spirits or energy lifeforms. As such when they take on corporeal form it would be through a form of spiritual possession, meaning that they would take on the body of whatever host body they chose to occupy. Think the show Supernatural where both angels and demons inhabit host bodies of humans, yet their true forms are shown as either bright white light energy or dark smoke or mist. Also similar to the Stargate series of sciencefiction programs that have as part of their mythos the ancients and the Ori(originals) who are shown as beings of energy either as white nimbuses or fiery flames. One has to remember that in the bible the protagonists and antagonists are written of as abstract thoughts and emotions. good v/s evil life v/s death etc, so it is quite possible that the spirits are nothing more then the remaining life energy of living hosts, or pure thought pure energy pure ideas. Thus do not exist as physical forms but rather the life energy of the beings, think of the body per se as a mere physical shell that houses our own life energy so the soul is that energy. According to the science of physics energy can neither be created nor destroyed it simply is and can only change form from one kind to another like chemical(fuel) to heat and light though the physical form of the fuel maybe consumed the energy remains it simply changed form from solid to light and heat.

    • CarlySimon

      Back away from the TV, Laverne - unless you and Shirley are gonna do a reunion
      episode, of course.

    • ArchiesBoy

      "One idea that is never mentioned in any of these discussions is that both God, Jesus, and Satan/Lucifer quite likely exist not as corporeal beings, but rather as spirits or energy lifeforms."

      And just what, sir, is your hard evidence for this?

  • laverne_keller

    Another thing to keep in mind regarding my hypothesis about the true forms of God, Jesus, and Satan/Lucifer. Even in the bible Jesus is never described as a physical being but rather as the 'spirit' or the 'word' of God made flesh. So it's quite possible that when the bible talking about Jesus being the son of man or the son of God and the 'immaculate conception' of his creation, it's likely a way of saying that Jesus was created by God empowering or implanting a portion of his energy to a human fetus or ovum in Mary's womb. Science has shown that such forms of creating life do happen. So maybe try thinking in the abstract rather then the physical.

    • ArchiesBoy

      "Science has shown"?? How about showing your sources? And how about the claims of all the other religions which make equally valid/invalid claims? Just because Christianity claims to be Truth (as do every single other religion by the way) doesn't mean it is. You need to get that one *really clear.*

    • http://alenonimo.com.br/ Alenonimo

      Science has shown that such forms of creating life never ever happen.

      Fixed that for you.

  • Horsrescue

    More importantly - why is the easter bunny always chocolate? Give up the fables and fantasies of your childhood. Do you still believe in the Tooth Fairy? It is all myth fabricated to control the uneducated masses.

    • Dcoronata

      But is the Easter bunny dark or white chocolate?

      • ArchiesBoy

        Usually milk...

    • fhcgsps

      did you never get a pink chocolate easter bunny? so sorry for you.

  • jumbybird

    It's an issue because today, we prefer to debate issues that don't mean shit... instead of something meaningful.

  • enough said

    "his hair was like wool"

  • Bufod

    It seems logical to assume that Jesus looked like an average male Sephardic Jew or Arab, i.e., dark but not black..

  • reliapundit

    jesus was reportedly born to a woman named miriam who was jewish, and white.

    jesus looked like her son and like other children she and her husband joseph had.

    and he looked like his disciples and those he preached to.

    therefore, he could not be black.

    people who argue jesus was black are propagandists.

    and liars.

    • ArchiesBoy

      "jesus was reportedly born to a woman named miriam" -- yes and was also reportedly a virgin, someone's wife who was impregnated by a jealous god...

  • Lu

    Jesus taught that the 'men' of these world focus on that which is on the outside yet that which is within is the greatest.

    Light of the World is a phrase Jesus used to describe himself. Not white or black, these are terms that humans uses to keep away from truth and look down or despise each other, also wage wars and therefore shield themselves from the Light.

  • Satanist

    Do you even realize that middle-east was dominated by Europeans (Romans) for at least 1000 years? Most jews were already mixed with europeans... so the assumption that Jesus had white skin is not so far-fetched

  • upisdown

    jesus was palestinian. they are blood descendants of the hewbrew people, also where bethlehem is now, and are the tribe of judea unlike the khazar tribe, synagogue of satan. americans have become the romans, the conveyors of "jewish" wishes to crucify or murder the palestinians through political AIPAC tax extortion.

  • aeonmagazieispoop

    my comment deleted for telling the truth. what bs.

  • http://twitter.com/YngwieFM Yngwie F Malmsteen

    The real miracle wasn't that a child was born to a virgin, it's that a white man was born in the middle east! Christianity is a vile religion in practice btw.

    • fhcgsps

      christianity is not vile...it's what people have done to it over the past 2000 years. there is only one God...and God bothered to offer us a variety of ways to understand how not to destroy our world. buddha, jesus, whoever...they all have the same message. if we all just take things back to the basics we'd all be fine: don't take what's not yours...whether it's another person's belongings, reputation, relationships...whatever...in short...mind your own freakin' business, stay out of everyone else's business and keep your priorities in order...don't get greedy, help others when they need help, and don't destroy the earth. it's all pretty simple really. (that includes name calling btw).

  • http://twitter.com/MmedeSevigne Marjorie

    Wasn;t he described as having feet color of ebony"?

  • Realspiritik

    The historical Jesus lived in a narrow strip of land in the eastern Mediterranean that has been colonized, conquered, and repopulated many times over the past few thousand years (eg. Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Macedonians, Hellenistic Greeks, and Romans). We have absolutely no way of determining what Jesus' genetic inheritance was. However, chances are very good, statistically speaking, that Jesus had dark hair and dark eyes and dark or tan or olive skin because these are dominant traits that tend to build over time in a population when many different gene pools are mixed together repeatedly over the centuries.

    Why should it matter, though? If you believe in the teachings of Jesus (and not everyone does, which is fine with me) you know that he built a large body of teachings around the themes of inclusiveness and non-prejudice. He was an anti-status teacher. So to insist that God favours one race or colour of skin over another (or one gender or sexual orientation, for that matter) is to miss Jesus' point entirely.

    • http://alenonimo.com.br/ Alenonimo

      The "apersonality" of Jesus might help with the part of spreading religion thing, but when people says the guy really existed, it's actually important to answer how the guy looked like.

      You can't have the cake and eat it too.

  • bleepingdeadalien

    weak minds...the lot of you!

  • ArchiesBoy

    Let's not forget: this whole thing is the internal kerfuffle of one of just *one of the many* religions, *all* of which claim to be the one and only truth; all others to be "an abomination." Give me a break.

  • Little Gramma

    Don't you think that if Jesus really existed that he would look like the race of the person whoever was viewing him at the time? No one would ever question they were seeing someone different than what the person standing next to them saw.

  • toadboy

    It is an oversimplification to make a judgement on a person's appearance in the distant past based on the appearance of the population living in the location today. The assumption that Jesus was black is based on the idea that since Bethlehem is sort of near Africa, and all populations of Africa were black, then Jesus must have been black too. All these assumptions are based on flawed impressions. It is the same argument used to claim the Pharaohs of early Egypt were black. Of course we have mummies to study, so that argument is not supported by evidence. Visiting virginia today, one might assume Pocahontas must have been Caucasian or black, because that it how the population there looks now. I will not claim that Jesus was white. I don't have that information. But I do have some real data that he could have been. Here is a link to a mosaic portrait of a woman made in the time of Christ and in the locale that he lived. -

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mona_Lisa_of_the_Galilee.jpg

    Honestly, she looks like could be from Norway. There are many other examples. Could Jesus have been Black? Possibly, I don't know. The biggest problem that I see in studying Jesus is the lack of Roman documentation. The Romans left us lots of literature, even a book of Jewish Messiahs. But little or no mention of him during his lifetime. maybe there is an old book in an ancient library somewhere that will answer many of our questions. However, I will not make claims about Jesus until I have some evidence to base those claims.

    • RRE

      The only know contemporary non-Gospel reference to an historical Jesus is a sentence in Josephus. John the Baptist gets a few lines

  • Buddy 12

    Jesus was Jewish, so certainly dark skinned at that time. Why not just try to depict him historically accurately like they do in Passion of the Christ where he spoke Aramaic, or like in The Jesus Josephovich parables where he is a dark skinned Jewish man, which by the way I think you can read them now on http://www.whereJesusIs.com on their blog.

    I don't think the Devil actually looks like Barak Obama though... Since I grew up in the 80's my view is that the Devil has to have a goatee.

    Passion of the Christ depicted Satan as a white woman and a few people freaked too...

  • http://remembrancerepentance.weebly.com/ Daniel Hennessy

    Jesus has been "ethnically cleansed," if you will, of his Jewishness for two thousand years. When the Church developed and implemented its supersessionist Replacement Theology based on the Jewish crime of "deicide" for "killing Jesus," it effectively "replaced" Israel as the "New Israel" before the eyes of its non-Jewish followers, co-opting the blessings of God for itself and leaving the curses of God for Israel to be associated with, ultimately resulting in the conditional form of European Christianity that allowed for the Final Solution to the Jewish Question to be implemented without Christian Europeans raising anything in the way of an alarm, much less any real form of resistance or rescue. The portrayal of Jesus as a white European instead of as a Semitic, Torah-observant, Jew is the ongoing symptom of a great blindness still operating within mainstream Christianity.

    • Jay

      Daniel,
      Did you consider the possibility that Jesus was not Torah observant in the way that you suggest? Jesus said it is not what goes into a person's mouth that makes him unclean- and this idea was revolutionary, because the OT did portray some foods like pork as making someone unclean.

      In fact, one of the things attractive about Jesus was that he overturned conventions. Thinking about Jesus in the context of the Torah has a useful aspect because it puts him in Jesus' own world. But one must also see how he broke with conventions, and yes superseded- went Above- them too.

      PEACE.

      • http://remembrancerepentance.weebly.com/ Daniel Hennessy

        Peace to you, as well, Jay. I appreciate your suggestion. Going by his words as presented in the gospel narratives, he seems to me to have been Torah-observant and obedient to all that Moses taught. He did indeed bring his own sometimes radical messianic interpretations of Torah observance to the table, which a small group of rigid, religionistic, politically-corrupt members of the Pharisee party vehemently disagreed with (not ALL of the Pharisaic party to include Joseph of Arimathea, Saul, etc.), but said himself that he came not to abolish but to bring the Law (Torah) to fullest expression. (Mt. 5:17) As such I think his way was indeed incredibly attractive, as you say, and entirely unconventional as he offered the people a yolk of obeying Torah that was "easy" and "light" (Mt. 11:30) at a time when the Pharisees aligned with the Sadducee-dominated Temple administration were pressuring the common people for the sake of retaining control, etc. This is why so many loved him and still follow his ways, as he taught the love of Heaven that the Torah brought.

        I do believe that Jesus thoroughly overturned convention when he taught a fresh, messianically-interpreted form of Torah observance with him that turned the world upside down - to include the world of the Sanhedrin at the time - but that remained fully Jewish, fully in keeping with Moses and the prophets. I find it tragic that as the Gentiles were brought into this messianic movement that Jesus began, that the Judaism he observed, taught, and died for was theologically hijacked along the way, leading to two millennia of disaster for his people, the Jewish people. As a result of seeing things this way, as a follower of the itinerant rabbi from Nazareth, I teach my sons accordingly as we acknowledge Shabbat and the festivals in our home although we're not Jewish by birth or conversion. We are not kosher as yet, but nobody's perfect...:)

        As a Holocaust educator-activist, upon learning the long, dark history of Christian anti-Jewish teaching and antisemitic behavior, I chose to follow the one whom I believe to be the long-awaited Jewish Messiah as opposed to the traditions of the Church Fathers, many of whom were vehement antisemites who committed great thought-crimes against the Jewish people as they cleansed the Jewishness from everything Jesus and his disciples said and did.

        I appreciate your thought, Jay, as well as your civil attitude in presenting it, as not all of the remarks made in this discussion would be very "kosher" to Jesus in any event. My faith perspective is not understood by most, but it is the truth of the matter as I see it as an imperfect, ever-learning, Gentile follower of the rabbi from Nazareth.

        BLESSINGS and PEACE to you and yours, as well!

        • RRE

          A nice summary of Torah practice of Jesus, as represented by the Christian scripture

          • rosspw

            Well "spoken" Daniel. Thank you for your scholarship (being well-informed) and clarity of explanation. I'm with you, also a Gentile apparently following the same rabbi from Nazareth.
            I am deeply saddened by the atrocities, psychological and physical, perpetuated by corrupt men who used the Catholic Church as their cloak of authority to do all kinds of evil over many centuries. But I know that they thought and acted in ways completely contrary to the nature of the Messiah portrayed in the Bible. I prefer to be not a follower of any church or church leader, but of Christ himself.

            As to the Messiah's skin tone... his mother was a Jewess, of the line of David. The best assumption (indeed it is an assumption) is that Jesus had olive skin (brown, if you like), but to me it is unimportant. I am among the 96% of the population who are not US American and so I don't know whether Martin Luther King Jr has been cited correctly above, but if he has, then I agree with him: "The colour of Jesus’ skin is of little or no consequence [because skin colour] is a biological quality which has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the personality".

  • love

    Since all Gods are man made... it makes since that Jesus is white, since a white man made him. Why would a white person depict a dark skin Jesus--even if he is brown in the white mans bible. Who cares anyway? The white man's sky god has been around for 2000 plus years and the black man has been around for 4.5 million years. Who are you going to believe? A white guy from European privilege or science?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ali.ghias.967 Ali Ghias

    Everything fake about Jesus. He was just a Prophet of God. Who created him without a father. God created Adam & Eve without parents.

  • Linghong Hu

    The fact that Jesus is not black and God's message (Quran) has to be recite in arabic are equally racist, but I don't feel offended. Besides, in our native religion, all the gods look like Chinese. ^_^ Only Science transcends borders.

  • Jay

    The writing of the Church fathers of the early Middle Ages described Jesus as having tan skin due to all the time he spent in the desert. Also, in the Eastern Orthodox icons, the devil is portrayed as an old man with a white beard who goes to Joseph to tempt him to reject Mary for having a pregnancy without him.

  • Mike

    Why are all these stupid racist articles being published? Jesus is black or brown.? So is the average gangster. So what?

  • http://atlantarofters.blogspot.com The Sanity Inspector

    Maybe, after so many centuries of invasion and conquest, the ethnic group that Jesus belonged to doesn't exist anymore.

    • Black Gordy

      He was a Jew, you idiot.

      • http://atlantarofters.blogspot.com The Sanity Inspector

        And what color were Jews back then, and what color are they now? The article's talking about skin color, which can change a lot after so many millennia of conquest and diaspora.

  • angel

    If I were to portray satan in a visual form, I would make him glowing (maybe like a sparkly vampire LOL) because the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that he masquerades as an angel of light. Things are more tempting when they are sparkly. Look at Edward in Twilight. Sparkly=tempting. (I'm trying to be funny here, people.) Seriously, though, I never got satan being portrayed as black or red.

  • jumbybird

    Amazing that they made up the entire bible and forgot to make up what he looked like… either that or it was redacted.

  • Black Gordy

    Jesus was a Jew. Probably quite dark. Semitic people are dark skinned, and Jesus probably spent a lot the time in the sun. He sure wasn't a European, if that's what you mean by white. In fact, he was probably the same colour as the guy playing Satan. He can't possibly have looked like Morgado.

  • DList

    The reason the bible was silent on Jesus's skin color is because it was not in question. Jesus was a Jew...i.e. Caucasian. I read a book about Winston Churchill and not once did it mention he was white?? Get over it, racist. Funny how calling Jesus white is supposedly racist and offensive to certain nutty segments of our population but saying he is black or something else is not. Hypocrites.

  • g1

    in Biblical times and regions did not all semites, greeks, and romans look pretty much alike and no one of them was very white

  • Edmund Singleton

    No longer can white men be cast as native Americas in movies...

  • peter941

    I feel bad for the people that really look to this level of validation as valuable. Too many stories to pile on our kids. Too much false pride. We know plenty about what those people looked like and the source material should be respected.

  • JusMoney

    i don't think he looks like obama, i think he looks like ted cruz.

  • mitzymoon

    Probably he looked like an Israelite Jew, dark wavy hair, hirsute, olive complexion, prominent nose, thick eyelashes, full lips.

  • DarkCoheni

    Jesus is a man made god, the Greeks made him just like they invented the modern Jews and Judaism. The World is f....d because of this idolatry and the real GOD of Israel (who were not white) is angry with everyone.