This religiously inspired image, featuring a black Mary and baby Jesus, originally featured as an advertisement.

Does an image of a black Jesus disturb you?

If it does, why? Does it disturb you that its unhistorical? If so, does an image of a white Jesus disturb you just as much?

28 thoughts on “Fear of a Black Jesus

  1. Personally, I am fascinated with how other cultures express Jesus artistically. We can debate forever as to the correct skin tone, nose size, hair and eye color….
    But the truth is that Jesus is the Living God become flesh. That’s the main point.
    You could probably add to you question: “does dressing Jesus in clothing from the European Renaissance disturb you?”

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  2. It doesn’t disturb me: quite the opposite… the expression of Jesus is found in every human form, so to me this is a great example. And I will recommend it be shown at my old congregational gathering at Christmas – with a high proportion of Sudanese brothers and sisters amongst them, I’m sure it would be appreciated…
    And yes, dressing Jesus (or in this case, Mary) up in Renaissancey clothing does disturb me… can’t we come up with some better visual symbols to give meaning to who Jesus is?

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  3. I love it. I hate that there is such a stereotypical “Jesus” image in our minds which most likely looks nothing like the man. I think if we’re to have any images of Jesus (not knocking art, spiritual expression is a good thing) they should be varied, not simply a white Caucasian with brown hair and beard. On the other hand, it is sort of nice to have a widely-known concept of what Jesus looks like so when we see the art we recognize Jesus in it. I don’t know, it’s complicated. I believe in free expression and the importance of art and visual things, but I struggle with the fact that the stereotypical Jesus as perceived by average Americans is a total lie, visually and otherwise.
    I’m over thinking this, It’s getting theologically and sociologically complicated in my mind so I’ll stop now.

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  4. Any race is fine… so long as we’re united as human beings by the unassailable conviction that Mary would have worn a medieval, romanesque mantle on her head. (Oh, here’s one now.)
    The young lad looks a bit like Gary Coleman in this painting. (“Whatchoo talkin’ about, Mary?”)

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  5. Veta, you said, “On the other hand, it is sort of nice to have a widely-known concept of what Jesus looks like so when we see the art we recognize Jesus in it.” I would say, better to have the figures embedded within a widely known scene where they can be recognized without that. Rather than than the decontextualized Isis and child like scene above, what about something that hints of the gospel narratives. The Orthodox are good at this, and we could follow their lead without needing to follow their style.

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  6. I think we put a dark baby doll in our church nativity scene last year.
    I get bothered by the white Jesus in art. Having him a different colour is good for a change. And I really don’t get why many Koreans love the white Jesus pictures!

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  7. In the Orthodox tradition Jesus is depicted as Middle-Eastern, because that is what he was. Neither a blond blue-eyed Jesus nor a black one as in your picture cuts it. The incarnation means that he became man, not a generalised humanity that is interchangeable with any other, but a real human being.

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  8. It’s a beautiful picture. There is no such thing as race just diverse cultures. Wonder why no-one has yet painted Jesus with all different skins tones in one picture…? You ever found one like that Matt in your art collection?? maybe i should paint it!

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  9. christians of the west are mostly racist and haughty. Jesus was actually black, marry migrated from ethiopia. Stupid red neck christans of america and most western countries would indeed immidietly leave christianity if jesus was black. how weak their faith is! and no i am not black! I am chinese.

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  10. I’d like to ask, Changotango, as to what you’re basing those statements on? By all accounts, while Jesus visited Eqypt, an African nation, he was ethnically Jewish and thus of Middle Eastern appearance. There is nothing to indicate anything different for Mary. I can only presume you’re drawing on extrabiblical sources, possibly Gnostic conspiracy therories. Would that be correct?

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  11. In response to Matt Stone’s comment to a black Jesus. Please refer to the Annunciation of Mary, Mother of Jesus. This is considered the oldest on the planet of the Annunciation and survives to our day. It’s from the Catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome. It shows the “original” mother of Jesus. Also in that same catacoomb is Mary and the baby Jess. You are welcome to search the internet for this information, and all major historians agree, including Roman historians–I encourage you to see it and I wish you well on your journey of discovery.

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  12. Friend, some very sweeping statements there. Care to substantiate them with some evidence?
    I take it you are referring to this image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Madonna_catacomb.jpg
    If so, then I’d challenge you on a number of fronts. Firstly, most the references I can find on it acknowledge that it “may” be the oldest known image of Mary, but do so far more hesitantly than yourself. Secondly, none of the references I’ve found so far actually identify this image as a black madonna. In fact, to my untrained eye it looks so heavily deteriorated that its hard to tell what colour it was originally. Thirdly, even if it is the oldest image, it dates from at least a century down the track from when Mary died. How did the artist know what she looked like “originally”? Fourthly, the earliest records, the gospels, clearly depict Jesus as being raised in a Jewish manner. Nothing at all to suggest an African mother. So, in the absense of evidence, this just looks like pure speculation to me.

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  13. Jesus wasn’t black and wasn’t white he was the skin tone of the jews and its not that it matters what race but to be honest he is jewish since he is from the line of David and you can’t go around saying he is this race or that race its unbiblical and wrong

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  14. Jack, I’ve edited your comment so the email isn’t showing as per your request.
    To respond though, do Jews have a standard skin tone? I would have thought it be more correct to speak of “Palastinian” skin tone or “Middle Eastern” skin tone than “Jewish” skin tone.

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  15. The term “middle east” or “middle eastern” were coined in the 19th century by European map makers in an attempt to cause a historical disassociation between that region of Africa and mainland Africa. To say Jesus had a Jewish skin-tone makes no sense. First of all, Jews are not a distinct race, they are a group of people selected out of their race. secondly, the word “Jew-ish does not exist anywhere in the bible.
    Israel today isn’t racially the same as it was in biblical times. The beginning of the ethnic change of Israel began when Israel was colonized by the roman empire, then later, Jerusalem was destroyed by the roman army. All of north Africa were invaded by Greco-Romans lead by Alexander the great. Scripture reveals hat the race of the Israelite. In acts 13:1, Simeon, who was the half brother of Jesus was called “niger” by the Romans. Niger in Latin and Greek literally means black. The prophets Daniel and John describes Jesus as having hair of wool and arms and feet of dark brass. Acts 13:1 is in itself enough to know what color the Jews were.

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  16. In Europe all of the earliest paintings of the baby Christ and the Virgin Mary were black. From Spain to Russia, the black virgin and Christ were worshiped and venerated. At that time, the consciousness of white supremacy had not fully developed, for it did not yet permeate their religious belief system.
    In 1505 pope Julius the second commissioned the paintings of certain biblical works from artist Michelangelo and in doing so initiated the concept of God being white. The original blackness of the Virgin Mary was distorted to resemble a Florentine Italian women and from there on all of the other biblical characters was painted white.
    The important question is: are the black images of Jesus and Mary accurate representations?
    It is true that it doesn’t necessary mean they were black just because the black images predates the white images. However, evidence can be cited to authenticate the actual racial identity of Jesus and Mary in an old church tradition that says St Luke personally knew the mother of Christ and carved and painted most of the black virgins. It becomes more convincing when one considers that fact that this tradition is held by the Europeans themselves. Europeans would not have fabricated such source.

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  17. READ Revelations 1 vers 13 till 15 and you shall never ever believe the white image of the beast!
    Jesus is and was a BLACK man, the Israelites are BLACK and NOT white, never been white by their nature!!!!!!
    The Israelites are in slavery in the Americas.
    READ your bible. Read read read.

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  18. The timing of these posts is very interesting in relation to a recent news story of a blonde-haired blue-eyed child being born to black Nigerians and a current-release movie about a black child being born to white parents in the era of apartheid South Africa!
    Doesn’t bother me what colour skin Jesus had when incarnated, I just appreciate that God was loving enough to take on flesh and blood particularity for our sakes…

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  19. Johanna, I would have said Israelites are Middle Eastern rather than African? That Jesus was neither black nor white in the stereotypical sense. Isn’t your geography off a bit? You’re not advocating reverse racism are you?

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  20. Feet of burnt bronze & hair like wool! He spent 2 yrs in Egypt while Herod was trying to kill him. In an african nation(Egypt)why couldn’t they find a white or “middle eastern” looking baby?????!!! My grandmother was white! If the image of Jesus was a true image I believe white american christians would leave in droves. At the time of Jesus’ birth the mixing of races was not as prevalent as it is now. King Solomon’s words “do not look down upon me because i am dark & comely!” (black & beautiful). That’s Jesus’ ancestor, right? Jesus was of african descent & so was the true chosen people(Hebrews) who spent 400 yrs enslaved in AFRICAN Egypt! Its not that hard to figure out. If the truth doesnt matter why lie? To perpetuate IGNORANCE & mental slavery on those who would become aware,powerful & take their rightful place on this planet. yet the handful who control this globe worship him not. & continue these falsehoods to keep getting paid!! Thats their god!

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  21. Chon, at the end of the day I don’t care what colour he is, I just care about evidence. What I’m finding troubling here is that many of these assertions that commenters are making are high on passion but low on evidence. Quite simply, I find it as troubling whenever Jesus is treated like a racial mascot, whoever is doing it – blacks or whites. Personally I go with the forensic reconstructions, which suggest Jesus was neither black African nor white European but olive Middle Eastern in appearance. If this middle eastern Jew was anything other than middle eastern in appearance the onus lies on the naysayers with more exotic theories to prove it.
    I’m not gunning for my own race, I find it highly improbable he was my own race, and I’ve never suggested anything otherwise, so I find it disingenous for you or anyone else to insinuate that I have some sort of racial agenda here. Quite the contrary, it makes me wonder about the racial and rhetorical agendas of those who suggest it, for those who give the impression that they are gunning for their own race.
    I’ve looked up the Lemba tribe as you’ve suggested. What I’ve found suggests there is some DNA evidence for racial connections between the Lemba tribe and the Jews, so I grant you that. But most of it suggests the racial influence went the other way, that the Lemba are the offspring of diaspora Jews that interbred with Africans, which is hardly conclusive evidence for the Lemba being the more original stock.
    What I find dissappointing here is that people seem to have missed the point of the original post: that that our racial loyalties should be entirely subservient to our loyalty to Christ Jesus.

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