I have been thinking a lot about how Original Sin and Segregation are conneted, an how the Kingdom of God (think MLK) and Integration needs to return to the forefront of our minds here in STL. For that reason, I’m very glad to have a black scholar here to think through some of these things with us.
One thought that moved a pastor here, in our segregated city,
We and our parents turned our lives upside down to segregate, to move away from black people when they moved into our neighborhoods. We pulled our children out of schools, and lost money. It cost us to segregate. Now, in our moment, are we willing to do an equal amount to integrate?
In STL, one of the original sins of our city is segregation. It could have been a different way.
Welcome, Dr. Sanders… looking forward!
Once came across the “Jesus at the U.N.” postcard, where a 90 foot, blond-haired and blue-eyed Jesus is peering in the windows of the upper floors, Godzilla-like. I just had to buy it. Took it home, then to took out some permanent markers, and wrote, in a thought balloon emanating from Jesus “Yeah; I know I look funny for a Jewish kid… that’s because of the immaculate misconception.” It’s still one of my most treasured
trinkets. : )
I’m glad you brought up that topic, Guy. I’ve heard at lot of people make that very point about the Jesus at the U.N. painting. They always mention the blonde-haired Jesus. Yet, every reproduction and webpage image I’ve seen of that famous painting looks to me like the Jesus has brown hair. Now keep in mind that I have compromised eyesight—but even after magnifying on my huge-monitor various Jesus at the U.N. images online, all I see is brunette hair (although some versions show somewhat lighter shades of brunette.)
In any case, I’ve never understood why some people complain so strongly about a blonde-haired and blue-eyed Jesus. I agree that that would not depict the average first century Palestine male—but neither does that represent the average European or American today. Most men (and women) throughout the world, for that matter, have darker hair and darker eyes. Even so, blonde-hair and blue-eyes are not at all rare in modern day Israel and I’ve read plenty of academic articles by historians and scientists saying the same of first-century Palestine. I would say that Jesus most likely had darker hair but blue-eyes were not at all out of the question and it is also possible that he had lighter hair or even sandy hair.
The myth that Jewish people don’t have blonde hair or blue eyes was so prevalent among the Nazis that the Jewish resistance regularly used young blonde-and-blue Jewish women as couriers. Many of them had facial features indistinguishable from Aryans so the German soldiers at checkpoints would often let them right through without even inspecting the contents of their bicycle baskets. To them it was impossible that a Jew could look at all like an Aryan.
Indeed, a young blonde-haired and blue-eyed Jewish man named Werner Goldberg became the “poster boy” model for Nazi propaganda posters and magazines as the ideal Aryan and soldier, even for a while after the war began.
I well remember a blue-eyed blonde Jewish beauty from my college days who told me that both of her grandfathers were rabbis. (One of those very traditional rabbis was absolutely furious when he learned that she regularly attended the opera with very Gentile me, especially when he discovered that I was planning graduate studies at an evangelical Christian seminary. ) Yet, she was once told by a theater director casting Fiddler on the Roof that she didn’t look “Jewish enough” to play any of the main character’s three daughters!
In modern day Israel there are often complaints that models and pageant winners tend to be blue-eyed blondes. Many Israelis would like to see a wider reflection of Jewish diversity.
By the way, as a counter to these realities, I’ve heard some claim that the tribe of Judah (Jesus as the Messiah took on the title of the Lion of Judah) was exclusively brunette and brown-eyed but I’ve not seen that well documented in the academic literature. (I suppose it is possible that that has changed since my retirement. I don’t necessarily keep up with The Journal of Biblical Literature and other academic periodicals nowadays.)
Now I certainly tend to get annoyed by art which clearly tries to make Jesus look European. Traditionally that eventually meant representing him to look like a Plantagenet noble, or whoever. The cascading hair seems particularly out of place for a first-century Jewish male. On the other hand, I’m also a bit startled by depictions of Jesus as black-skinned. Nevertheless, sincere efforts to emphasize that Jesus belongs to all of humanity and took on a lowly role in a definitely average family can’t be overemphasized. The kenosis is a vital Christian doctrine. [Kenosis is a Greek word meaning “emptying”, the idea that Jesus as God willingly emptied himself of various Divine attributes for a time in order to experience life as a limited human.]
Well, let’s not leave out the “Jesus as a blue-eyed redhead possibility,” either!
Thanks for the interesting foray, and for agreeing, generally, with the whole problem of “immaculate misconceptions” (in virtually any subject, from my experience).
Definitely! How about a freckled Messiah or a Jesus with a severely receding hairline?
Yes, I like that term!
It is fascinating to review the “evolving” depictions of Jesus over the past two thousand years. If I recall, the bearded Jesus began to trend in the third century. Indeed, there have been definite cycles of clean-shaven versus bearded Jesus come and go in various regions of the world. Same with hair depictions and a few other features.
I can certainly respect the Islamic ban on all artistic representations of Mohammed in the sense that it might also serve as an admission that nobody knows what he looked like. (However, I did have a lady once tell me that a particular drawing of Jesus by a Christian artist—who claimed to have died on the operating room table and came back to life—was “the genuine Jesus” because she regularly saw him in her dreams. Good to know! )