Opinion

'Take a mirror. Look into it. That is what Jesus looks like'

'Take a mirror. Look into it. That is what Jesus looks like'
  • Both geographic and genetic evidence point more to a Black Jesus than a White one.

  • Wasn’t Jesus a Jew from the lineage of Judah, a Semite, all right, but with two Black wives?

  • If he were to appear on the streets of Nairobi, would Kenyans recognise him?

  • There is no physical description of Jesus in the Gospels, the official records that we have of his life.

Christmas is the most celebrated religious holiday across the world. Yet it is not the most significant event in the Christian calendar. Easter is.

We know why: Christmas is a happy season, for “unto us a child is born”. Never mind that the only reason the child was born was to be hanged on a cross!

DESCRIPTION

Jesus, is the most well-known figure in human history, among Christians and non-Christians alike. Joan Taylor, a professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Period Judaism at Kings College, London, says “Jesus is so familiar that he can be recognised on pancakes or pieces of toast.”

Yes. Among the latest claims was that in April, 2014, the face of Jesus appeared on a pancake at the Cowgirl Cafe in Norco, California!

But do we know the identity of Jesus? If he were to appear on the streets of Nairobi, would Kenyans recognise him?

There is no physical description of Jesus in the Gospels, the official records that we have of his life. So how can anybody know that what they see is the face of Jesus?

When we strip ourselves of hypocrisy, we acknowledge that skin colour is the most basic human identity marker. So what colour is Jesus?

AVERAGE HEIGHT

But first things first. There are two “Jesuses’ No. I’m not a heretic. There is the historical Jesus and the messianic Jesus.

The historical Jesus is that of flesh and blood born to Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem slightly more than 2,000 years ago.

The messianic Jesus is the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Christ who always existed as the Word, which was with God, and which was God.

Accepting our humanity, let’s limit ourselves to the historical Jesus, that is, the one who has “colour”, whom we can see, touch, and understand.

If Kenyans heard that Jesus would be in Nairobi on Christmas Day, many would flock the streets looking for a handsome, White, 30-year-old man. He would have a well-trimmed, long or average beard, complete with a moustache, long, blond, curly hair, with blue eyes, a long thin nose, and would be of average or above average height.

WHITE KANZU

He would be wearing an ankle-length white kanzu with a long, hand-knit gown on top and a wide, cloth belt. He would also be wearing flat leather sandals.

Jesus would be characteristic of the kind of a person Kenyans adore: with powerful, rich, and classy.

So as Kenyans look for Jesus, they would be rehearsing a popular Kikuyu song, Maya ni mabataro makwa (these are my needs): an office job; that V8, a 10-bedroom house with multiple sitting rooms, not to mention a “walk in” wardrobe; a swimming pool…

But, sorry, that’s not he. Jesus would be black.

Both geographic and genetic evidence point more to a Black Jesus than a White one. Wasn’t Jesus a Jew from the lineage of Judah, a Semite, all right, but with two Black wives?

INTERMARRIED

Solomon, the son of David of Judah, was half- black and half-Jewish. His love for black wives and mistresses is well recorded in the Bible. He dedicated a song to some Black woman. Reread “Song of Solomon”.

During the time of the historical Jesus, many Black people intermarried with the Israelites.

It is unlikely that Jesus would be handsome (whatever that means). Prophet Isaiah (53:2) affirms that he “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him”.

Jesus did not stand out, otherwise, it would not have been necessary for Judas to identify him with a kiss.

Jesus would most probably have kept his hair and beard short, perhaps even clean shaven. It is not feasible that a man with no fixed abode would have kept his hair long, with the high prevalence of lice in his time.

ORDINARY

Having been a carpenter like his father, Jesus’ palms would be hard, with blisters. And like his hands, his face would have scars from bruises commonly incurred in carpentry workshops.

We read that all messianic prophecies in the Bible were fulfilled. Therefore, there is no way Jesus would have been dressed like a king with long, pure white linen!

Joseph and Mary were ordinary folks, which explains why Jesus was born in a manger.

So why do we have a different image of Jesus? Do not be fooled. The human mind is not creative. It’s only innovative. No human can create, even a mental image, without using some “raw materials”.

To build the image of Jesus, we rely on the stories we have heard, the paintings, drawings and other images of the historical Jesus that others have presented to us. Unfortunately, the systematically recorded history of Christianity has consistently presented to us a White male, handsome, rich, and royal.

PERCEPTIONS

Like all history, Christian history is selective, subjective, if you wish. It depends on the story teller. And the teller of Christian history has been a handsome, white skinned male wearing a long beard, with long blonde curly hair…

Many would argue that establishing the facts about the historical Jesus is neither here nor there. They would rather we focused on the messianic Jesus.

True. Drawings, paintings, and carvings are merely mental images. But mental images matter. Before anything exists outside the human mind, it must exist in the mind. And before it exists in the mind, it must be presented to the mind in some form. A chicken-or-egg puzzle.

Presentations and representations have such an impact on human perceptions of reality that perceptions are often more real than reality!

For the child of Joseph and Mary to be the saviour of the world, he had to be White, a ram, not ewe; his name had to be Jesus (not Y’shua), and he had to be born on December 25, in deep winter.

DIVINE DESIGN

Christianity has systematically been reconstructed from a traditional African religion to a political party dominated mainly by White men! Or could this be by divine design? Would Christianity have spread as much, but for racism?

Christmas is a time to reflect on African identity. Before you pick up the rhetoric, ‘I met the Lord Jesus Christ in 1965 ….’, it’s important to meet the authentic historical Jesus first. Take a mirror. Look into it. That is what Jesus looks like.

Eunice Kamaara is a professor of religion at Moi University. Her contact is