Was Jesus Black? 
By Guy Cramer 

 Shattering the common perceptions of Jesus' physical appearance

I was emailed with the following comment:
“Many people are surprised to discover that Christ was a black man, but when one looks at Christ's lineage one discovers that He has numerous Hamatic Ancestors, with Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Naomi, Bathsheba and Jezabel being the most notable.”

There is not one place in the New Testament that describes the appearance of Jesus. The picture the world recognizes as Jesus seems to be the same image from the Shroud of Turin, however, the shroud does not show white or colored skin. Can we deduce from His genealogy if there was indeed Hamatic Ancestors? 

Actually a few colored people in the genealogy does not give any indication of His skin color as many Caucasian people have at least one colored ancestor somewhere in the recent family tree. However, there may be several reasons why the New Testament doesn’t say a word about the physical appearance of Jesus. If Jesus were depicted as Caucasian or Colored, would that indicate that one is better than the other? 

One must be very careful when jumping to assumptions about His appearance, especially when we consider the only physical description given in the Bible of Jesus:

Just as there were many who were appalled at Him – His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness….He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Isaiah 52:14 - 53:1-3

Many Christians become very defensive when their perception of Jesus as the perfect looking human being is shattered by the above passage. The first comment I’ve received in talking about this to other Christians is that this passage in Isaiah must refer to what Jesus looked like after being beaten by the Roman soldiers before and during the crucifixion, not before. However, one must look at Isaiah and read it carefully, no one was going to be attracted to Him by His physical attributes.  

Today, as in the time of the ministry of Jesus, we come to faith not based on Jesus’ physical characteristics as the authors don’t provide us with any clues other than the great detail of His attributes when He is in a transfigured state on the mountain and a similar description in Revelation, but the authors are silent on His normal everyday appearance.

In our world so many popular modern day celebrities become adored and honored because of their physical characteristics. We only need to go to the magazine stand and look at the covers to confirm this human trait of cherishing beauty over accomplishments.

If you were to make up a religion, would the Messiah not be the most beautifully attractive person to walk the Earth? The fact that Isaiah indicates otherwise and the New Testament writers leave out any physical description adds to the facts that the Bible is a genuine book based not on human ideas and perceptions but on that of a Creator who does not force Himself on people with all the powers available to Him through creating physical attraction with the Messiah, but does it the hardest way possible, through words and actions.

Was Jesus not perfect before His death? We read that He was without sin, but that doesn’t mean that He looked perfect. In fact we read that the disciples didn’t recognize Him after He was resurrected and could in fact change His form.

After that (appearing to Mary Magdalene), He appeared in another form to two of them (disciples) as they walked and went into the country.  Mark 16:12

What kind of disfigurement would Jesus have had? Job, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil (Job 1:8) has to suffer from Boils that covered his skin from top to bottom. We can only speculate on what qualities or lack of them Jesus had that would cause men to despise Him because of the way He appeared.

In reviewing the Isaiah passage and coming to terms with them I find myself questioning my own feelings on all people I meet. The saying is true “Beauty is only skin deep”. 

Would I have shunned Jesus and ignored Him because of the way he looked? Have I shunned others in my life because of the way they looked? Have others done this to me? Can I change my attitude and accept people for who they are and what they can become inside and not for how they look on the outside?

Let’s learn from this and become more accepting of all people.

 If Jesus decided to approach you today as he appeared back then how would you react?

Will Jesus treat you the way you treat others?

“Judge (Condemn) not, that you be not Judged. For with what judgment (condemnation) you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  Matthew 7 1:2 (NKJV)

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