I came across an online discussions about the appearance of Jesus. There are some that claim: “Jesus wasn’t White, you know!”, “Jesus was a Brown Palestinian!”, “Jesus was a swarthy Jew,”. Or most often i saw this: “Jesus was Black”.
These thoughts suggest that they are not so much concerned with the question of what Israelites truly looked like. In contrast to what Christians always believed them to have looked like.
Let us test these spirits: does God’s Word teach Jesus and the folk from whom He physically descends to be brown, black, or any shade we would identify as non-White?
But what do we really know?
Without going into any detail of Greek and Hebrew etymology, the translators of Bibles have enjoyed a historical consensus in describing king David as “white and ruddy” (1 Sam. 16:12 and 17:42). In the King James Bible the word ”Fair” is used” Fair is used to describe a light complexion. This is also used in modern-day dermatology. An example of this is the Fitzpatrick skin type system:
Likewise is David his son Solomon described as “white and ruddy” (Song 5:10), and the context is further describing Solomon’s belly to have been “as bright ivory” (Song 5:14). And speaking of groups of Israelites as “purer than snow, whiter than milk and ruddy in body” (Lam. 4:7).
We are likewise told Ezra “blushed” before God at the sin of his people (Ezra 9:6). And Jeremiah rebuked Israel for not blushing at their sin (Jer. 6:15 and 8:12).
Ask yourself what blushing could possibly even mean to brown or black races? Blushing is in fact a meaningless concept, except among the fairest people of earth.
When Samuel located God’s chosen king, David, he noted with admiration the boy’s appearance as “ruddy” (1 Sam. 16:12).
Add to this that there exist several eyewitness descriptions of the living Jesus. Even though were all written by different people, they all describe the appearance of Jesus with a remarkable similarity.
The description of Jesus’ appearance
The most famous eyewitness attestation to Christ’s appearance is found in the lengthy Letters of Herod and Pilate. Here we read:“His golden colored hair and beard gave to His appearance a celestial aspect.”
Another is found in the Archko Volume, a symposium of first-century court documents, including excerpts from Gamaliel’s Interview, which reads:
”He is the picture of his mother, only he has not her smooth, round face. His hair is a little more golden than hers, though it is as much from sunburn as anything else. He is tall, and his shoulders are a little drooped; his visage is thin and of a swarthy complexion, though this is from exposure [which is to say, sunburn]. His eyes are large and a soft blue, and rather dull and heavy.”
And another still, the Letter of Publius Lentrelus to Tiberius Caesar, describes Jesus’s appearance in this way:“His hair of a color that can hardly be matched. . . . His forehead high, large and imposing; his cheeks without spot or wrinkle, beautiful with a lovely red; his nose and mouth formed with exquisite symmetry; his beard, and of a color suitable to his hair, reaching below his chin and parted in the middle like a fork; his eyes bright blue.”
Of course, our opponents will be keen to remind us that texts outside the Bible have no place in defining our doctrine. But these witnesses in question offer no new doctrine at all, and undermine none either. Rather, they only seem to reaffirm exactly what we would expect to find after having read the biblical descriptions of Israelites in general, and the Messiah’s ancestry in David and Solomon especially. These texts merely offer an “amen” to Scripture.
The discussion is caused by ignoring facts
Today the discussion originates not from any fact or research, but merely from ignoring the testimonies that describe the appearance of Jesus as having Aryan-like features.
But realize what a rejection of these testimonies assumes:
1) That the writers of each of these testimonies were set upon weaving the exact same false narrative of a flax-maned, blue-eyed, ruddy-complexioned. Jesus.
2) That for lack of any objection, the church fathers were of one accord, institutionalizing this fabricated conception of Jesus.
3) And that the misconstruction of His appearance would have to be malicious and be based in a false narrative of White Supremacy.
But the fact remains that these documents meet the normative standard in historiography as well as any document of antiquity. And they were never seen as being not in line with Christianity, or in any way unacceptable.
The meaning of Jesus appearance
The Church has never suggested that Jesus’s sacrifice applied only to those who have a similar appearance as Jesus. For most Europeans don’t even have blond hair and light blue eyes. Fewer share the luminous quality by which He is described. But the Ethiopian eunuch who hungered for Philip’s preaching was not rejected.
No, Christ’s visage is not the gospel. A man could go his entire life never having considered the consistency of Christ’s hair, His eye color, or complexion. It would not hinder his salvation in the least. I have no interest in vindicating icons or fresco’s. Even when following the descriptions with the utmost precision possible it would still be to mingle the truth with the imagination of men, and therefore, present a false image of our Lord.