Unveil Jesus of Nazareth: Why Do We Think He Was White?



WORDS | Claire Catacouzinos

Art history over the years has depicted Jesus as white, blue eyed, with long shoulder length hair and a long beard. Where has this image come from? There were never any physical descriptions about Jesus in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, so why in the 21st century are there films and images produced of Jesus looking this way? People rely on relics, like the Shrowd of Turin that is a cloth bearing an image of a man (with long hair and a beard) who has suffered from physical trauma from crucifixion. Many believers think this is the cloth that covered Jesus after he was crucified, but how can that be when radiocarbon dating has shown it to be from medieval times?

Over two thousand years, Art history has depicted Jesus with a changing face. First, he has short, light brown hair, he’s white, and he looks like a young boy from the Byzantine era, then in another century he’s bronze, dark haired, and looking like a thirty year old, then during the Renaissance era they made him white, with wavy brown hair and blue eyes. In different Western and Eastern cultures, Jesus has been imagined differently, he either looks Hispanic, Arabic, European, or Black. And if Jesus was white and blue eyed, don’t you think the eye witness accounts, according to the gospels, would have stated that Jesus was a different looking man from the norm? Is this why there was no point in writing a physical description about him, because he looked like men at the time in Judea and Galilee?

It all comes down to how artists have interpreted the face of Jesus. We will never truly know what he looked like. However, we must not forget historical facts and evidence from the 1st Century AD. The BBC’s documentary series, Son of God, looks for the historical figure of Jesus, behind years of theology and faith. With forensic techniques, the makers of this documentary reconstructed an interpretation of Jesus’ face from a Jewish man’s skull in the 1st Century AD. What do you think?


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