The real face of Jesus from History Channel – are we sure?

By Michael Vass | March 31, 2010

I am not a theologian. This is not a religious blog. Taking both into account, let’s not lose our minds on this.

History Channel presented what Jesus might look like based on the Shroud of Turin. The final image matches up very well with the popular image promoted by the Catholic Church.

But is that accurate?

I don’t think so. Jesus was a Jew, specifically a Hebrew. Add to that the general location of Hebrews of that time, and their origins – Egypt and Northern Africa – and the image that is most logical is not an Eurocentric man. His skin would be darker, his hair more curly, and a completely different nose.

In the Bible, as I was taught some 40 years ago by Roman Catholics, Jesus had hair of wool and skin of bronze. The older the Bible you read, the more the description is descriptive of a non-European – possibly and African or Arab. Some of the earliest images of Jesus, from Ancient Rome, depict an image of him with VERY similar features to an African or Black man.

So why is it so important for Jesus to be White? Or depicted so often as a blonde or brown haired, blue eyed, very Anglo White male? In fact why did the image become that?

Chrisitianity was long centered in Italy. It’s spread flowed through the Roman Empire, first and predominantly, to Europe. Like most thigs over time, cultures incorporate the past into their own view to better accept them. Not unlike the way that Rome has so many oblisks and other pagan or Egyptian symbolisms incorporated into its artworks.

Thus it makes sense that as Europe grew and Chrisitianity expanded, the image of Jesus morphed. As Western culture came to dominate the world, those same images proliferated. Thus today, some would say not only is Jesus White, so is God. Which is a silly statement, as God would be beyond all of that. In fact, the Bible states (I am paraphrasing here) that Moses could not look unto God, and HE had to take the form of a burning bush just so Moses could see him and live.

The thing that really cemented the image of Jesus as a White man had to be the advent of technology and film. Movies like the 10 Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told blazed an image of Egyptians, Middle Easterners, and everyone associated with the Bible as White. Which is a joke. (Not that they weren’t good movies)

Elizabeth Taylor looked as much like Cleopatra as Yul Bryner likely looked like Pharoh Rameses or Max Von Syndow looked like Jesus.

So how does the image from the Shroud of Turin look so White according to History Channel? Well the image was based on a program. That program was created by men. Those men grew up in a world of images and movies promoting a White Jesus for millenia. They might not have had an intention to do so, but such lifelong subliminal messages work their way into everything. I mean, from the imprint of a shroud, how is it possible to get a skin tone?

Of course none of us were alive when Jesus was. So I could be wrong. But logic, and several controversial passages from older Bibles, states that a darker skinned, far more curly haired, ethnically far from European Jesus is the most honest depiction.

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