What color was Jesus??

JesusI’ve heard this question debated many times throughout my life. Most white people seem to assume that Jesus had fair skin like they do (at least it would seem that way by looking at paintings from the past). Black people seem to want to believe that Jesus had to have been darker skinned, or maybe even black, because of various reasons. The truth is that there are still sects of people who disagree with most churches because they believe we serve a “white” Jesus.

This question of Jesus’ race somehow crept its way into the high school boys Sunday School class that I used to co-lead with a friend of mine. I must say that I was a bit caught off guard by the excitement and passion that ensued once the subject was mentioned. Arguments came from all angles and all perspectives from all over the room. After hearing many of the students’ thoughts, I shared my own.

To me it makes sense to believe that because Jesus was born an Israelite, He would look as an Israelite would look. Logically, it seems that He would look the same way that people from that region of the world look today. Neither black nor white, but rather an Arabic looking man with a brown skin tone. That to me makes sense.

The bigger question I’ve always had when it comes to this issue is “why does it matter?” Why do people care what color Jesus was? What difference does it make whether he was black, brown, white, green, red, or purple? To even allow the debate over Jesus’ race to become a big deal is just a distraction from what’s really important. If one really believes that Jesus is the Son of God, born of a virgin, to come to this world to die for all of our sins, then be raised from the dead, then why does His race matter?! The bigger picture of Jesus tells a story of what He did and who He is, not what His skin tone was.

Imagine that a person you know is on the “Price Is Right”. Your friend makes it all the way to the end, and she wins her Showcase Showdown, which includes a trip to Tahiti and a brand new car. She calls you after the show, excited that she won, but concerned because she’s not sure which airline she’ll be flying to Tahiti or in which factory her new car was assembled. You can’t believe how silly she sounds. She just won an extravagant prize, but she’s consumed with details that shouldn’t matter.

Jesus came to this Earth to give us the greatest prize imaginable—life. Because of our sin, every one of us deserves death, but He came to bear our guilt. To spend time arguing about Jesus’ race, minimizes that fact and shifts our focus to unimportant details. These are the types of arguments the Bible talks about in Colossians 2:8—arguments that never amount to anything. Remember to keep your focus on the big picture. Thanks for reading…

*steps off soapbox*

Catch you next time…

-Erik (@WalkSays)

About Author

Erik Walker

Erik is black.


    • Ruth
      July 31, 2014

      Very well said. What He looked like doesn’t take away from what He came on this earth to do.

    • resiliency84
      July 31, 2014

      I think it would be historically inaccurate to say that Jesus looked the same as Israelites do today, due to invasions and racial mixing that has occurred since then. As the region came under Muslim/Arabic and then Turkish rule, then with migration from those of Ashkenazi descent (the face of many Jews we see today who are of German origin) into Israel, a lot has changed. Just as the “look” of many cultures have worldwide. Jesus was probably darker skinned, like most Jews of his time. Playing devil’s advocate, I think the issue some may have is with the way in which the Eurocentric/western view of everything significant in history and religion is the most accepted and displayed to the masses no matter how inaccurate it is. The image that we have accepted of Jesus is just a small part of the perpetuation of the superiority of a certain group on a global scale, which has been part of a motive to oppress other racial groups for centuries. Christianity by far is the largest religious group in the world. I challenge you to think about that, and what the image of Jesus that is most accepted by the church can subliminally reinforce globally. Everyone that cries Jesus or uses him doesn’t have his heart, even Revelations tells us that.

      Even if Jesus DID look like the Arabic population as we see them today, then you indirectly admit that the face we’ve come to know and love is a lie. Why is that accepted? And why is it wrong for people to question it? How would you feel if you left your mark and legacy on this earth, and your face and original name was changed to fit the comfort and motives of a certain group of people? I applaud your Sunday school students for asking questions, because something as simple as the image of Jesus has the potential of blowing the lid off of so many lies that have been covered up about the history of the world in general.

      HOWEVUH, I do agree that a relationship with Him is most important. As Dr. King once stated, his race or color is of little consequence. At the end of the day what he came to do for us transcends all racial boundaries.


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