The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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Takin' it to da Brotherman

March 16th, 2008 · No Comments · christianity

Easter must be near, as the annual “Christian Interest” story is going around. From the BBC: Was Jesus Black?

Some say that it’s obvious that Jesus was a black man: he liked Gospel, called everyone ‘Brother’, and couldn’t get a fair trial.

There are serious traditions that the family of Jesus migrated from Nigeria (!), and Ethiopian Christianity has always imaged Jesus with dark skin. The birth story tradition of the sojourn in Egypt have led others to presume a darker skin color for Jesus than other Aramaeans.

Western art has generally presented Jesus with flowing locks, even though Paul, in First Corinthians, rails against men with long hair. As it turns out, the characterization of Jesus as a “Nazarene” led many artists to presume that Jesus was, in fact, a Nazarite — a dedicant to a particularly aggressive form of Judaism in which additional obligations to avoid alcohol and hair trimming, among other things, were observed in order to better serve God. In which case, long hair would have been the obvious choice. The connection between Nazarene and Nazarite has been rather controversial, so I can imagine why the BBC wouldn’t want to bother to mention it.