Friday, February 28, 2014


(IF, that is, he ever existed!)

About this "Jesus certainly wasn't white" meme: nothing would please me more than if someday, somehow, if were proven that Jesus had skin so dark it was more black than brown, and a broad flat nose, and a big beautiful afro. (And was never actually crucified, cause, yikes!) The look on the face of a certain uncle of mine -- that alone would be a joy. But the black Jesus theory, or even the certainly-not-white-Jesus theory, is wishful thinking every bit as much as the lillywhite Jesuses we're used to seeing in Western art. There is no "typical Middle Eastern appearance" today, and there wasn't one 2000 years ago. The Jews were not an isolated etnicity before Alexander the Great. Greeks and Jews blended during the Hellinistic period, and then the Romans broadened the gene pool some more.

One of the things which makes me wonder whether Jesus was ever more than a fictional character is that no one in the New Testament says that he was tall or short or fat or thin or strong or weak or pale or dark-skinned or that his hair was black or brown or red or blonde or curly or straight or long or short, or that his beard was long or short or thick or thin, or that he didn't have a beard because he shaved.

If he existed, if Mary really did claim immaculate conception, then she was hiding the identity of Jesus' biological father -- who, between the Jews, Greeks, Romans (the Roman gene pool alone was very broad), Samaritans, Arabs, Persians, Roman soldiers from Gaul, Dacia, Nubia, and elsewhere, and others, could have had any human color of skin and hair and eye.

Over and over I encounter this resistance to saying: "We don't know." Ehrman -- along with, apparently, still, the vast majority of academics in the "relevant" fields -- still says that it's "certain" that Jesus existed. Many people say that Jesus "certainly" wasn't white -- whatever "not white" means. Is Diogo Morgado white? (He plays Jesus in the new movie Son of God and is touching off a new round of the debate over Jesus' ethnicity and appearance.) Is George Zimmerman white? I don't want want to to know where the supposed boundary lines are between white and not-white and black and not-black and so forth. I'm so tired of these boundaries. I want us all just to be people, and to really look at each other, and really see that we're all one species.

People want to be sure about so many things. That line in the liturgy about a "sure and certain hope of the resurrection to come" kind of gives the game away. For one thing, it's a case for the Department of Redundancy Department, because sure is certain and vice-versa, and for another, a hope is never certain. If it's certain it's not a hope anymore, it's knowledge.

"Certain" is a greatly overused term.

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