What did Jesus look like?

In Your Eyes

By Edward Antonio

(Second of two parts)


The Whitening of Jesus


If Jesus would have looked like any ordinary Semite living in Palestine, how come his images now depict him as a tall, white man?

Episcopalian director, Charles D. Hackett, explains: The image of white Jesus many Westerners conceive of today is the result of a deliberate attempt to whiten Jesus, to make him look more like a Western European. If one looks through a chronological history of the presentations of Jesus in Western art, one will see that Jesus gets increasingly whiter and whiter.

In other words, Jesus’ image was “Europeanized” to fit the culture of the white man.

In our country, Jesus’ image varies a lot to fit the beliefs and culture of the Christian regions. There is a black Christ, a brown one and a white one. His face also varies according to the artist’s perception.

Some religious denominations don’t display Christ’s image in their church or in their homes. They are more concerned on the things Jesus preached than how he looks.


Jesus the Political Radical


Contemporary representation of historical Jesus’ physical appearance is not the only thing that is inaccurate; popular portrayal of his politics is often very misguided too.

Jesus was a political dissident and radical. Jesus was murdered for being an enemy of the state. He was not just punished for preaching “blasphemy”; most empires could frankly care less about the religious beliefs of their subjects. Jesus was so dangerous to the Roman Empire because he challenged its legitimacy.

Crucifixion was the Roman Empire’s primary method of punishing dissidents. Death by crucifixion was the worst punishment the empire meted out; Rome reserved it for dissentious slaves, pirates, and enemies of the state.

Slaves who partook in the famous uprising led by Spartacus, the 73-71 BCE Third Servile War (there were three major slave rebellions in the Roman empire, the three “Servile Wars,” in just the 50 years from 135 BCE to 71 BCE alone), were murdered in mass crucifixions for the worst crime of all: challenging tyranny. Jesus was similarly considered guilty of treason for preaching obedience to God over obedience to the Roman authorities. He was a political prisoner, and was killed for political, not religious, reasons.

As a popular meme puts it:

Jesus was a radical nonviolent revolutionary who hung around with lepers, hookers and crooks; wasn’t American and never spoke English; was anti-wealth, anti-death penalty, and even anti-public prayer (Matthew 6:5); but was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control, never called the poor lazy, never justified torture, never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, never asked a leper for pay  and was a long haired, brown-skinned, homeless community-organizing, anti-slut-shaming Middle Eastern Jew.

Jesus was also a Palestinian. Yes, he was Jewish, but he was also Palestinian. He was both.

Before the creation of Israel in 1948, this was not an oxymoron; there were thousands of Palestinian Jews. The modern land of Israel has been called Palestine for thousands of years, and Jews have lived there for this time. A New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine scientific study reveals, “Jews are the genetic brothers of Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese, and they all share a common genetic lineage that stretches back thousands of years.”

In other words, Jesus was a Palestinian Jew who challenged an empire, preached non-violent civil disobedience and opposed the greed and individualism that are at the heart of capitalism.

Jesus Referred to God as ‘Aalah’

Ben Norton further cited there is more to Jesus that might astonish us.

Jesus Christ spoke Aramaic. The Old Testament is written in both ancient Hebrew and Aramaic. The word for “God” in Aramaic, Jesus’ language, is “Aalah.” The Old Testament uses the word Aalah in the Aramaic passages. Jesus referred to God as Aalah in Aramaic.

The Encarta Encyclopedia has this to say: Before the Christian era, Aramaic had become the language of the Jews in Palestine. Jesus preached in Aramaic, and parts of the Old Testament and much of the rabbinical literature were written in that language.

Still today, Christians who speak Aramaic and Arabic also refer to God as “Allah.” Jews who speak Arabic refer to God as Allah as well. Allah simply refers to the Abrahamic God.

This is probably the reason why our brother Muslims are so keen in insisting that God’s name is Allah.

There really are a lot to learn, fellas — a lot to learn and nothing to lose: only additionals, no minuses.

That is if we open our minds.#