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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Was Jesus Black?


And does it matter? See, I’m an atheist, not a Christian, so Jesus as a person means nothing to me. To Christians, they care about what Jesus did as a person; he was this peaceful carpenter who healed people and created miracles in Christian Mythology. So to them, what his ethnic background is probably bears little importance.

An early depiction of Christ.
So this post is coming from two angles. On the one hand, I’m a firm believer in looking past the colour of people’s skin and looking at the content of our character, as MLK put it. Jesus Christ’s significance in the Christian faith is based on his selfless behaviour towards people. On the other hand, I am aware that Christianity was highly significant during the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Colonialism. It was used to sell the ‘white is good, black is bad’ narrative, and having Christ as this white man with brown hair reinforced the perception of white being good and black being bad. Those attitudes are no longer enforced today (I am not denying that racism still exists – and affects EVERYONE NOT JUST BLACK PEOPLE – just stating that it is not of the same magnitude and anyone who thinks so is foolishly ignoring History).

A documentary series I have seen called Hidden Colours claimed that the famous image of Jesus was commissioned to be painted by Italian painters (including Michaelangelo), and that the figure was actually a man named Cezare Borgia. He was an Italian nobleman and politician who fought for power during the late 1400s. There are plenty of sites circulating online that claim the popular image of Christ was based off Borgia. Christ was said to have lived thousands of years ago, so no doubt there have been many depictions of him of all different ethnic backgrounds. It is likely that this image of Christ as a European looking man (whether based off Borgia or not) was taken to Africa and held up as the shining example of ‘the white man’s God.’

Furthermore, the Bible is an ancient text, or rather a collection of ancient texts. It’s been around for thousands of years. The King James Bible (written in the 1500s) is the most known version to the modern world, but before that there would have been other versions. (Also, regarding Theology, if one were to look at religious texts and stories from different faiths they would see that the Gods, the wars, the virgin births all were very similar. But that is for another topic). In Hidden Colours, it was stated that King James authorized and gathered information from pre-existing religious texts in order to create the now-known King James Bible. Lots of writers (including Shakespeare himself, allegedly) were involved in piecing together this modern followed Bible. It didn’t start with Europe, it started a long time ago with early humankind gathering their tales.

And let’s look at the Bible itself. In Chapter 2 of Genesis it states:

‘the name of the second river is Gihon, the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia’

It is also stated that Abram fled to Egypt, and blended in with the Egyptian Hebrews. We all know that Egypt and Ethiopia are in Africa, and native African people have never been fair-skinned. Some Historians claim that Jesus was Middle Eastern, but again during that time period, Middle Eastern folk would not look like they do today because humans hadn't migrated to colder climates where their features would have changed. Around that time period, Middle Eastern folk would have been dark skinned because that's how Hebrews looked like at the time.
One could argue that the Bible is not a reliable source of information, but then this whole post is based around someone who probably isn’t real (yet has had an enormous influence on the world). Moreover, as mentioned the Bible is based on religious texts that people would have written down with their notions about Christ and the Hebrews.

The Bible states that the Abrahamic God created man and woman in his image. Adam and Eve were created naked. They would have had to be in a hot climate or they would have frozen. Early humankind resided in Africa. All of this points to the fact that the Abrahamic God was black, the original Hebrews were black, and Jesus Christ himself would also have had to be black. Look at this description of Christ from Revelations:

‘his hair and head are white like wool/eyes like burning fire/feet like highly polished brass burnt from a furnace.’

When you burn something it goes black. The Bible has clearly referred to Christ as being a dark-skinned man. Also, 'woolly hair' describes hair that is not fine and straight like Europeans, but kinky and coiled like Africans. The image of Jesus as a white man probably came about during the Slave Trade era, as the white aristocracy did not want black people to see God as a black man as that would have been counter-productive. Even in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm learned that the original Hebrews were dark-skinned, and Jesus being a Hebrew would also have had dark skin.

So to conclude, Christ (if he existed) was most likely a black man, as all the evidence points towards it. But does it matter? Well, in a historical/racial justice sense I suppose it does. This is a man people worship, and if it matters so much then why don’t they accurately portray him? This is not really about Jesus or religion, it’s about the socio-historical/racial connotations behind having people still look up to this white guy as ‘benevolent’ when his image played a part in enslaving millions.

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4 comments:

  1. if Jesus was real. you forgot the family lineage to Moses ea. i'm white and have curly, wooly hair :) could i be related? but the Jesus depiction of a black dude with white hair is not possible because Jesus died rather young.

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    1. Ah yeah that makes sense about the white hair. Yeah I'm pretty sure Moses was a Hebrew too and fled to Egypt? I've seen 'The Prince of Egypt', one of my favourite films ever. (And the Hebrews are all depicted as black).

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  2. "Middle Eastern folk would not look like they do today because humans hadn't migrated to colder climates where their features would have changed" What do you mean by that? Do you think that humans hadn't migrated to Europe/Asia/America at the time of Christ?

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    1. I may have been incorrect there. I think I was assuming that 'interracial breeding' (for want of a better phrase) in the Middle East would not have occured on the level it has today hence why those living in the Middle East would have had darker skin. But perhaps I am wrong there. Either way though, assuming Christ was a real person, if he had fled to Egypt he would have had to blend in making him dark skinned as opposed to fair.

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