Color struck: America’s White Jesus Is A Global Export And false Product

Article By Wesley Muhammad, PhD.

What color was Jesus? Most American Christians—Black and White—would dismiss this question as both irrelevant and unanswerable as the Gospels fail to give us a physical description. The irony is that most of these same Americans in their heart of hearts are pretty confident any way that they know what color Jesus was. They attend churches with images of a tall, long haired, full bearded White man depicted in stained glass windows or painted on walls, and they return home to the same depictions framed in their living room or illustrating their family Bibles.

Further compounding the irony is the fact that America actually has an obsession with the (presumed) color of Christ and has exported her White Americanized Savior around the world, as recently documented by Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey in their book, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (2012).

In fact, the world’s most popular and recognizable image of Christ is a distinctly 19th-20th century American creation. It is true that versions of the “White Christ” appear in European art as early as the 4th century of the Christian era, but these images coexisted with other, nonwhite representations throughout European history. The popularity of the cult of the Black Madonna and Black Christ throughout Europe is evidence of the fact that the European ‘White Christs’ never acquired the authority and authenticity that the White Christ now has globally. This Christ and his authority are American phenomena. As a predominantly Protestant nation Early America rejected the imaging of Christ that characterized European Catholicism.

By the mid-19th century, however, in response to American expansion, splintering during the Civil War and subsequent reconstructing, “Whiteness” took on a new significance and a newly- empowered “White Jesus” rose to prominence as the sanctifying symbol of a new national unity and power. As Blum and Harvey observe:

“By wrapping itself with the alleged form of Jesus, whiteness gave itself a holy face … With Jesus as white, Americans could feel that sacred whiteness stretched back in time thousands of years and forward in sacred space to heaven and the second coming … The white Jesus promised a white past, a white present, and a future of white glory.”

As America rose to superpower status in the 20th century she became the world’s leading producer and global exporter of White Jesus imagery through film, art, American business, and Christian missions, and has thereby defined the world’s view of the Son of God. This globally recognizable Jesus is a totally American product. Indeed, he is an American. Warner Sallman’s iconic image of Jesus called Head of Christ (1941) became the most widely reproduced piece of artwork in world history and its depiction the most recognizable face of Jesus in the world.

By the 1990’s it had been printed over 500 million times and achieved global iconic status. With smooth white skin, long, flowing blondish-brown hair, long beard and blue eyes, this Nordic Christ consciously disguised any hint of Jesus’s Semitic, oriental origin—and departed from the older European depictions. It both shaped and was shaped by emerging American ideas of whiteness. The beloved White Jesus of today’s world was Made in America.

What, then, did Jesus actually look like? Despite the absence of a detailed description of Jesus’s physical appearance in the Gospels (though John the Revelator saw the risen Christ apparently with wooly hair and black feet, Rev. 1:14-15), there are non-biblical evidences that actually allow us to visualize the Son of God from Nazareth.

Revelation 1:14-15 – King James Version (KJV)

14) His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

15) And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

The first century Jewish writer Josephus (37-100 AD) penned the earliest non-biblical testimony of Jesus. He reportedly had access to official Roman records on which he based his information and in his work Halosis or the “Capture (of Jerusalem),” written around 72 A.D., Josephus discussed “the human form of Jesus and his wonderful works.” Unfortunately his texts have passed through Christian hands which altered them, removing offensive material. Fortunately, however, Biblical scholar Robert Eisler in a classic 1931 study of Josephus’ Testimony was able to reconstruct the unaltered testimony based on a newly-discovered Old Russian translation that preserved the original Greek text. According to Eisler’s reconstruction, the oldest non-Biblical description of Jesus read as follows:

“At that time also there appeared a certain man of magic power … if it be meet to call him a man, [whose name is Jesus], whom [certain] Greeks call a son of [a] God, but his disciples [call] the true prophet … he was a man of simple appearance, mature age, black-skinned (melagchrous), short growth, three cubits tall, hunchbacked, prognathous (lit. ‘with a long face’ [macroprosopos]), a long nose, eyebrows meeting above the nose … with scanty [curly] hair, but having a line in the middle of the head after the fashion of the Nazaraeans, with an undeveloped beard.”

This short, black-skinned, mature, hunchbacked Jesus with a unibrow, short curly hair and undeveloped beard bears no resemblance to the Jesus Christ taken for granted today by most of the Christian world: the tall, long haired, long bearded, white-skinned and blue eyed Son of God. Yet, this earliest textual record matches well the earliest iconographic evidence.

The earliest visual depiction of Jesus is a painting found in 1921 on a wall of the baptismal chamber of the house-church at Dura Europos, Syria and dated around 235 A.D. The Jesus that is “Healing the Paralytic Man” (Mark 2:1-12) is short and dark-skinned with a small curly afro – see below.

This description has now been supported by the new science of forensic anthropology. In 2002 British forensic scientists and Israeli archaeologists reconstructed what they believe is the most accurate image of Jesus based off of data obtained from the multi-disciplinary approach. In December 2002 Popular Science Magazine published a cover story on the findings which confirm that Jesus would have been short, around 5”1’, hair “short with tight curls,” a weather-beaten face “which would have made him appear older,” dark eyes and complexion: “he probably looked a great deal more like a dark-skinned Semite than Westerners are used to seeing,” they concluded. The textual, visual, and scientific evidence agrees, then: Jesus likely was a short, dark-skinned Semite with short curly hair and dark eyes.

Colossians 1:15 describes Christ as the “image of the unseen God” and in the Gospel of John (12:45; 14:9) Jesus declares that whoever sees him has seen God. What Jesus “looks like” then is not irrelevant as it is in some way a pointer to God Himself.

Finders Keepers:Simple Book About Complicated Ideas

STEPHEN

Book review by Bethanne Patrick, a freelance writer.

As his dedicated readers know, multiple versions of Stephen King, Author, exist. There is the King of classic horror, like Cujo, Children of the Corn, and Christine. There is the King of feminist uprising, from Carrie toDolores Claiborne to Bag of Bones. There is the King of strong series work, like The Dark Tower and The Green Mile.

I could go on, but the King we meet in the new Finders Keepers (the second of what seems to be a trilogy starting with last year’s Mr. Mercedes) is yet another man: The King of chilling writer tales like Misery, a man who’s long explored the relationship between writing and madness, reading and obsession, artist and audience. In fact, one the things King chews over in this new book is the question of how many versions of an author do exist, and how those versions affect different people.

Finders Keepers picks up years after Mr. Mercedes left off: Famous novelist John Rothstein died back in the first book, and now we’re following zealous Rothstein fan Morris Bellamy, and a boy named Pete Saubers. (You may find plenty of spoilers in other reviews, but not here. It isn’t necessary to know all of the details in order to understand this new book, although they’re given early on in Finders Keepers. If you want to be surprised, pick upMr. Mercedes first.)

Due to an unexpected find, Saubers has become quite an expert on the late, reclusive Rothstein, whose creation and legacy must have been delicious fun for King to develop; he’s a mid-20th-century literary lion in the vein of J.D. Salinger and John Updike. Rothstein’s oeuvre even has Updike-esque titles: The Runner, The Runner Sees Action, and The Runner Slows Down.

When villainy threatens the Saubers family, they fortunately hit the radar of an eccentric trio (also from the first book): Ex-cop Bill Hodges, tech expert Jerome Robinson, and researcher Holly Gibney. At first, following three storylines—Bellamy’s, Pete’s, and the trio’s—feels a little elementary, the reading equivalent of training wheels, even though the writing is as sound as ever.

Then you remember that almost everyone needs training wheels before they take off on just two. King picks up the pace almost instantaneously, and vroooooooom, there goes the action! Vroom, too, goes the consideration of what is means to be a close reader. What matters more—knowing every detail, or understanding the big picture? Can you ever hold a writer responsible for his work, or does a reader’s interpretation change things?

Most important, perhaps, is the question of how we read other people. Most of the characters in this novel have their vision clouded one way or another, a mistake that can be costly. Stephen King sometimes writes complicated books about simple things (cars, baseball); here he writes a simple book about complicated ideas. And if, at first, you think Finders Keepers is meat-and-potatoes King, just wait: The dessert is really satisfying.

The Author

STEPHEN 2

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

http://www.amazon.com/Stephen-King/e/B000AQ0842/