Friday, November 24, 2023

Is Jesus a Black Male?

Thanks to Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, we now have numerous sects and denominations presenting their own takes and beliefs on Christ and Christianity.  The Catholic Church solely is linked to Jesus as her founder compiled the Bible and is the sole interpreter of Scripture. However, thanks to Luther, we now have massive confusion. One biblical verse can produce hundreds of interpretations. This distorts Scripture and invalidates Christianity.  If Jesus is the Truth and the Word of God and this Word of God manifests in Scripture, why do we have so many interpretations of the Sacred Pages?  The answer is clear: people take and interpret the Scripture privately using their schema as a bias to develop paradigms of what they believe are authentic interpretations of Scripture.  Ignorance and pride are the root.  Today we will focus on one of these absurd takes on Scripture.  

For the past few years, we have seen cults develop around the United States. One, in particular, is a group of African Americans who call themselves "Black Israelites." They claim that African Americans, Black Caribbean, Africans, and some Latinos are direct descendants of the 12 Tribes of Judea.  This group claims that ethnic Jews are not real Jews. To them, they are "white devils" who usurped the Jewish religion and oppressed so-called "people of color." They are extremely hostile and obstinate in debates believing they are right and everyone else is wrong.  These people target Christians, in particular Catholics, and claim that Catholics push the white image of Jesus on humanity and say Jesus is really black citing Revelation 1:14-15 Revelation 2:18 Daniel 10:6.   Let us take a look at this claim and see what this is all about.  

Is Jesus white or black?  

Revelation 1:14-15 and Daniel 10:6 are Apocalyptic literature which is defined by Britannica encyclopedias as "characteristically pseudonymous; it takes narrative form, employs esoteric language, expresses a pessimistic view of the present, and treats the final events as imminent."  The literature uses imagery to convey cryptic messages. The description of hair like wool, eyes like fire, and skin like furnished bronze are exactly that, imagery,. They are not meant to describe Jesus literally.  Each has a specific meaning behind the symbolic imagery.  

First of all, Jesus was of Middle Eastern origin where people are mostly olive skin-toned. They would not be black.  Second, bronze has a yellowish-to-brownish color, not black.  So clearly the author St. John was not trying to describe the racial physicality of Jesus Christ.  The word used in the original Greek text is "chalkolibanon" which can mean refined brass, golden ore, or even white shining copper.  Note that the description is only linked to Jesus' feet, nothing else. Are we to assume only Jesus' feet were dark? What about the rest of His body?  The truth is that this description is a simile for the attributes of Jesus Christ, not His racial physicality. The imagery is meant to convey Jesus' authority, His moral purity, and HIs dual nature. 

It is interesting to note that verse 16 was left out which describes Jesus' face like the Sun. The Sun looks yellow to us due to the atmosphere but it is really a white star. So we have Jesus with dark feet and a white or yellow face. Does this make any sense biologically? We also see this description in Matthew 17:2.  Again, these are symbols used to convey a deeper message showing the glorification of Jesus or the Glory of God.  What about the hair?  Revelation says Jesus' hair is LIKE wool, not that the texture was like wool.  It also says it was white LIKE snow. This does not mean it is snow.  The description here is meant to describe Jesus as the ancient one, the wise one, and so on. White hair is often culturally linked to wisdom and authority. We know this because it is borrowed from Daniel 7:9-10.  

Revelation 1:14-15 also describes Jesus as having eyes with a flame of fire and a sharp two-edged sword coming from HIs mouth. Are we to take this literally?  Does Jesus have flaming eyes like Superman when he is about to shoot lasers from his eyes? Does Jesus have a sword in His mouth like a magician or circus performer?  Again, all of this is a metaphor.  The flaming eyes mean that Jesus is all-seeing and all-knowing. Fire lights things up no matter how dark an area is.  Fire brings light which allows us to read and acquire knowledge.  Jesus is all-knowing.  The seven stars represent the seven Churches being addressed by St. John via the writing of Revelation.  The two-edged sword here is in reference to Hebrews 4:12 which speaks of the "Word of God." Jesus is the Word of God or the Logos. His word is law, so to speak. It creates, sanctifies, instructs, gives mercy, and judges. The Bible was later called the Word of God by Pope Damasus I.  Scripture does not directly describe itself as the Word of God.  

In light of exegesis, there is no way Jesus could have been an African based on the Scriptures cited by these cult members. It defies logic.  There is also no way Jesus was Caucasian or had Caucasian features like males in Europe based on Scripture.  We just are not sure.  There is a text attributed to Pontius Pilate which describes Jesus as blond with blue eyes, but this text is not canonical nor inspired Scripture. The text is a letter from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar describing the physical appearance of Jesus. Copies are in the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C.(See: A Letter from Pontius Pilate on JSTOR.)  According to research, some claim the letter to be a forgery.  

Again, He was of Middle Eastern origin, not African and we know that the book of Revelation uses Apocalytic writing which uses metaphors and symbols to convey messages.  Note that in Revelation 5:6 it describes Jesus as having seven eyes and seven horns. This looks demonic rather than the Jesus image we are all accustomed to. The reality is that this is metaphoric language. Jesus does not literally have seven eyes or horns. The number 7 means completion or perfection. Jesus has perfect all-seeing eyes and the seven horns convey power, so Jesus is all-powerful.  Once again, Jesus' attributes are the message behind the bronze feet, white hair, wool-like hair, flaming eyes, seven stars, seven eyes and horns, and His face like the Sun. When people cherry-pick Scripture, we get these ridiculous interpretations. I am sure there is someone out there using Revelation 5:6 to argue that Jesus is an extraterrestrial or mutant. 

The color of Jesus' skin is irrelevant. Jesus came to redeem everyone and open the doors to salvation to those who will work for it.  It is a shame that this cult is engaging in divisiveness, race-baiting, and cultural appropriation of Judaism. As stated, we do not know what color Jesus' skin was. All we can assume is that He was olive-skin-toned due to the fact of where He was born and lived.  If Jesus were Black, the Gospel writers would have made an effort to detail this because there were most likely no Africans in the region at the time.  It is like finding Black people in China or Japan. They are extremely rare. Race is a social construct. It does not exist in nature. There is no gene for it. We all have different shades of skin tones, different hair textures and physical features due to nature and evolution. Our bodies adapt to the areas we reside in for an extended period of time.  

This will be an interesting thing to ponder in regards to when humanity begins to colonize the Moon and Mars.  The differences in environment may have a huge impact on evolution and may completely alter how the human being looks as it adapts to these environments.  Anyone caught up on skin color needs to pray and do some soul-searching. They need to mature and get educated. They also need to respect Scripture and not impose on it ridiculous racist ideologies.  God has no race or color. He is pure spirit. He cannot be limited to a color or physicality.  Jesus became man and has a human male body, but we have no description of it in Scripture so all we can do is assume He looked like the people of His time and region who were mostly olive-skin toned.  

The Catholic Church has always understood this and has never taught that Jesus was white or of any color. It is irrelevant. In fact, the Catholic Church has many depictions of Jesus in a variety of human skin tones and facial features. There are even images of Jesus with braids and Native American or Asian cultural costumes.  These are all fine and awesome!  They help us connect with Jesus on a personal and cultural human level.  God became one of us in all things but sin, so it helps to see Him in an image that connects with our ethnic roots in a sense.  

Groups like "Black Israelites" are a hate group who profess racism, not faith.  They claim God hates Caucasians which contradicts the purpose of Jesus' conception, birth, death and resurrection.  The Biblical verse most circulated makes it clear that God loves the world that He sent His only begotten Son.  We read this in John 3:16. Notice that the verse does not say "God loved only Blacks or Hispanics." It says "God loved the world..." meaning everyone and everything.   

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