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Why is Jesus white?

  1. Jan 30, 2010 #1

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    Considering his birthplace and homeland, one would expect Jesus Christ (yes, THAT Jesus Christ, the one from the movie and, incidentally, the God for two billion people) to be sun-darkened, and have almost dark skin. Really, Jesus Christ should have the same hair color and skin tone as Salah Al-Din, considering how close their birthplaces are.

    In other words, dark tan skin and black or very dark brown hair.

    So why is Jesus invariably shown as white with light brown hair?

    My only possible answer is quite cynical, and thus possibly not the right one (my answers are never quite right): He was represented that way (FYI: "Thou shalt not worship any graven image") to appeal to Europeans so that the church would spread more in the early stages and tradition took hold from there.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 30, 2010 #2
    You're absolutely right. He did not look at all like his modern depictions. I'd even guess that he looked more like Bin Laden than Salah Al-Din. He looked distinctly middle-eastern and he probably had short curly dark hair (there are even some lines in the New Testament to the effect that it's improper for a man to have long hair!)

    Why is he represented that way then? The early church did not use icons or depictions of Jesus Christ at all. Icons did not become widespread till the Dark Ages. During the Dark Ages, people were quite naive and their knowledge of the world was poor. Very few westerners knew what people in far away lands looked like. When they drew icons and pictures, they used people around them as references.
  4. Jan 30, 2010 #3
    You need to widen your own scope.
    http://mattstone.blogs.com/photos/asian_icons/chin-mary-jesus-1.html" [Broken]
    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2009/10/148_27288.html" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Jan 30, 2010 #4

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    Well, although the Chinese and Korean (Choson or Koryo?) pictures do not, in my opinion, portray an accurate Jesus, the so-called "Black Jesus" looks to me to be the closest one to the real person.

    Although Jesus would look a lot like the Prophet Muhammad, if you think about it... anyone have an image of the Prophet?

    Now, before a mob of angry Muslims show up demanding my head (or worse, an apology), it was a joke. I know about the forbidding.
  6. Jan 30, 2010 #5
    You jest about Muhammad? Do you know the penalty for this?
  7. Jan 30, 2010 #6

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    I'm guessing... I run free because of the anonymity of being on a forum.

    But enough about a little jest (it wasn't really about Muhammad, but those Danish guys).
  8. Jan 30, 2010 #7
    My Arabic professor was born in Nazareth, so he postulated that Jesus would have looked a lot like he did. He was a medium-to-light skinned Arab.
  9. Jan 30, 2010 #8


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    I'm glad this question/thought is put in the context of logic, and not in the (tiring) context of political correctness.
  10. Jan 30, 2010 #9
    Jesus was middle eastern, and that is how I see him whenever I go to church, or whenever I pray. The whole white Jesus, as it has been said before, is because it is far easier to have someone accept someone as their savior when they are the same skin colour as you are. As far as I know, the church is moving towards a more accurate depiction of Jesus.

    Most of the shows about Jesus on various history channels, has shown him as a dark, middle eastern man, with shorter curlier hair. Which looks way better than some albino dude walking around!
  11. Jan 30, 2010 #10
    Some arabs look like they could be white. Just because you can look at somebody and say "hey, he looks white", doesn't mean they are. "White" isn't exactly a good description.
    Race is a vague description of somebody. Most black people that aren't in Africa have other races mixed with them, yet they're still considered black. Why? Because they look black. If a black person and white person have a child and the darker skin is inherited, the child is black because he looks black. But if those same people have a child and he inherits the light skin of the white parent, that makes him white, because he looks white. Two siblings of two different races, simply because they look different.
    Here's a common picture of Jesus:

    Is he white? How do you know? Because his skin looks too light? I've seen Arabs with that shade of skin. Is it because of his hair color? I've also seen Arabs with that hair color. So what makes him white?
    I could see Jesus looking white or even black, since Africa is right there. But come on, Asian? That just doesn't make any sense.
    I'll say whatever I want, Muslims don't scare me. If they're reading this and have the wherewithal to track me down and defeat me in battle, they earned it.
  12. Jan 30, 2010 #11


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    Boy. You're really pushing the realm of new topics to debate. How long has this been around? Every culture has their own interpretation. What is so wrong with that? It has been shown that other cultures have their own. Why hype on the "caucasian version?" How about thinking critically and not hop on the bash-the-white-man bandwagon?
  13. Jan 30, 2010 #12
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2010
  14. Jan 30, 2010 #13
    Mark Twain wrote a short essay relating how he shocked his wife and daughters by asserting Jesus must have been a "negro". He insisted all the locals were dark skinned when he visited the Holy Land, but they accused him of being irreverent for purposes of making mischief.
  15. Jan 30, 2010 #14
    Why should Jesus be any other way? He was born in Israel which at the time was jewish land not arabic. jewish =/= arabic.

    He was born to a virgin mother. So he's half jewish and half.... ??????
    I think jesus was probably a tanned person but I don't think he was dark like that African American depiction. The way that I see Jesus in most art is as tanned... and you can't talk about his facial features being non-arab because his birthplace was NOT arab at the time so why must he be born with arab features???
  16. Jan 30, 2010 #15
    Half Arabic ... Doesn't his name has Hussein in it?
    Jesus Hussein Christ :biggrin:
  17. Jan 30, 2010 #16
    ^^ See above
  18. Jan 30, 2010 #17

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    One thing I want to clear up here: This was NOT my intent. In fact, this was so far from my intent that my intent can't see it. Radou's comment that it is illogical is so far closer to the truth that it is not funny.

    Oh, wait, it is, because my politics include hating those
    who irrationally bash white (Christian) men. And I'm accused of bashing... white men.
  19. Jan 30, 2010 #18
    Since no one brought this up, I will. Here's a supposedly scientific reconstruction of his appearance:

  20. Jan 30, 2010 #19
    i'm not sure you had ashkenazi jews at that time, they would have been sephardic and not really distinguishable from their arab brethren. jews that have wandered from their homeland are somewhat more intermarried with the locals.
  21. Jan 30, 2010 #20
    "Scientific" based on what?
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