Was Jesus White?

So many people are asking if Jesus was white. Many of the answers I found were based on opinions. It takes a little bit of effort to find the facts, but they are there to be found.

So was Jesus white? Jesus Christ is the creator of all things. He will for all eternity be identified with the Jewish people. Jesus is a Jew. Jews throughout history have reflected the diverse looks of the people from those places. Jesus could have looked like any one of most of the worlds population. So why doesn’t the Bible tell us what he looked like?

Part of the fallen nature of man is to try to create God in our image. But here’s the reality: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” -Genesis 1:27

There is such a desire on our parts to make Jesus look a certain way and behave a certain way. But God created us in His image. He doesn’t look at the outer man but he sees the heart.

For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7b

What Nationality is Jesus?

We’ve seen art depicting him in various ways.

He is often depicted in ways that reflect the ethnicity of each nation in which the conversation takes place -but we all wonder –what did he really look like?

It’s a fascinating question, so let’s take a little bit of time to look into the details.

According to his genealogy in chapter 1 of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus had ancestors from many different ethnicities, yet he was unmistakably Jewish. And if you look at the Jewish people today you can see some amazing diversity.

The most important thing I found out when researching this is that the color of Jesus’ skin didn’t matter then. And it doesn’t matter now.

Stick around a little bit and you’ll soon know why.

What was the Race of Jesus?

In fact the Messiah absolutely, positively had to be a Jew. Many Old Testament prophecies said so. There’s just no way the Messiah could have been anything else.

For example, God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would bless the whole world through them. Then he promised David the Messiah would come from his line.

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” 2Sam 7:16

In the hundreds of years before his birth, the Jewish people had seen quite a few upheavals. The result was that many, many of the Jewish people at this time in history lived outside Israel in other nations and mixed into other people groups.

We continue to see amazing diversity in these wonderful people to this day.

What Did Jesus Look Like According to the Bible?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”. -Isaiah 53:2, NIV

He is “lowly and humble of heart” Matthew 11:29 so we know he did not take on a regal air.

Jesus blended into a crowd well. He looked unremarkable. There was nothing splendid about his appearance.

When Judas betrayed Jesus, even though he was well-known and had taught in the temple his captors did not know what he looked like and had to depend on Judas to point him out. Here’s the scripture reference:

In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. –Matthew 26:55

Judas did so with a kiss -a common Middle-Eastern greeting even today.

Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” –Matthew 26:48.

Here’s a different example:

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. -Acts 13:1, NIV

In Acts 13:1, the writer takes pains to mention the origin of most of these prophets and teachers. In particular he mentions Simeon called Niger. Scholars universally affirm that Simeon was of African origin.

If Jesus was of African origin, wouldn’t he also have been noted to have such an appearance? Probably.

So since Jesus is never described as such, it’s probably reasonable to say he did not appear African, otherwise he wouldn’t have blended into the crowd very well.

Saul and David

We are given descriptions of King Saul and King David.

Saul was a strikingly handsome man who stood a full head taller than any other man in Israel.

David was described in the Bible as ruddy or red –but not necessarily a redhead. By the accounts of Saul’s and David’s exploits, it is likely they were both very strong men.

David even killed a lion and a bear before his victory in battle over Goliath.

Jesus was also a strong man during his days in Israel. As a carpenter, he would have had plenty of experience working with his hands.

He turned the tables on the money changers in the temple. He was strong enough to carry his own cross after being whipped and beaten savagely.

But he –unlike David- is never described as red.

The Bible is not too specific about his appearance, and we have no other description of him from history telling us one way or another.

Other Jews and related Bible figures were depicted as redheads. Esau –Jacob’s brother –for example- is described as red.

Did Jesus Have Long Hair?

While Jesus is depicted in art as having long hair, the Bible never describes his hair. We know he had a beard, because when the Romans were mocking and beating him, they plucked out the hair of his beard.

It’s interesting that this fact is given prophetically over 600 years before the fact: “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard.” Isaiah 50:6b.

The Bible displays its divine inspiration in facts like this. What other book can describe a historical fact over 600 years ahead of time?

Second Coming of Jesus

In the books of Daniel and Revelation, Jesus is depicted in scenes of his second coming. In these scenes of Daniel 10:5-6 and Revelation 1:13-16 he shows up with white hair.

His face is like the sun and his eyes are like fire, but we are never told the color of his skin.

But none of this matters. It just doesn’t matter what color or shade his skin or hair was.

His eye color doesn’t matter either. It didn’t matter then or now. Want to know why?

Color of Jesus’ Skin

The color of Jesus’ skin matters about as much as the color of Adam’s and Eve’s skin –which isn’t very much.

We have learned so much due to discoveries of modern genetics. The science of genetics has confirmed that all of humanity could easily have come from one man just as we read in the Bible: “From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth” Acts 17:26a

We now know that starting out with a small group of people with mid-toned skin, there could be enough diversity to create every skin tone in as little as one generation!

So how could we have all the races if we all came from Adam and Eve? We know scientifically that all the different peoples we call races could easily have come from just two people.

And given the right conditions, there is strong evidence that these people could separated into different people groups and began to look different from the next group in a very short time.

How Could All the Races have Come from Just Two People?

Jesus at the Second Coming

It’s very possible that Jesus had dark skin, but it’s not an open-and-shut case.

Mediterranean people today tend to have darker skin than Europeans, but there are still plenty of Mediterranean folks with light skin.

And we don’t have great data on the color of their skin 2000 years ago.

Jesus spent a lot of time outdoors. He was outdoors with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. He is described as a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and son of a carpenter (Matt 13:55), but this term in the original language (tekton) could also mean woodworker, artisan.

So he probably had the rough hands and the tanned and weathered skin of an outdoorsman.

So what?

God choose to send his Messiah into the world through his own chosen people. The Jewish people.

Why did God choose the Jewish people? God answered the question for us when he said:

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Deuteronomy 7:6-8 (emphasis added)

Jesus Died for All

God chose the Jewish people. He made them a small group. He could have chosen any race, color or ethnicity in all the world to bless the nations.

He chose the fewest of all peoples so there would be evidence that the One True God is doing these things.
“So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Zech 4:6

In his wisdom, God knew that man would get hung up on things like the color of Jesus’ skin color so he made sure it would never be an issue.

You see, “People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Sam16:7). It’s just like us to only look at the exterior and totally miss what’s going on in the heart.

This is why God chose to have the Messiah come from one of the smallest nations on earth. He didn’t choose a large, powerful nation so that people would follow him with the wrong motives.

No, he chose the Jewish people –a tiny nation.

See below as Dr. Michael Brown makes very solid commentary about how people get hung up on the color of Jesus’ skin and some thoughts about the sensitivities different people have about race.

Was Jesus White? Ask Dr. Brown

Before the Foundation of the World

“For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.” Eph 1:4

God chose to send his only son to live and die for mankind before he even created the universe.

He chose the Jewish people so we could focus not on skin color but on what really matters.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor 5:21

Just as it is written,
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall,
   and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  

Rom 9:33

The people he lived for -died for- and rose again for –could all place their faith in the only one who could save them.

And that is what really matters.

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