What race was Jesus?Question: "What race was Jesus?"
Answer: Although the Bible does not describe Jesus Christ’s physical appearance as a human, we know that He was born in Bethlehem and raised in the town of Nazareth in Galilee in northern Israel (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4–7; 4:16; John 7:42). Thus, Jesus Christ was a Middle Eastern, Hebraic Jewish man.
In tracing Christ’s genealogy, we also discover that Jesus was a multi-ethnic Jew. His bloodline contained traits from various races and cultural lines, including Moabite through Ruth and Canaanite through Rahab.
The earliest images of Jesus correctly depict Him with a dark complexion. But by the early Middle Ages, artists began painting Him with European features such as light skin, a beard, and long, light brown hair. Nevertheless, as a Middle Easterner, Jesus almost certainly would have been dark-haired, with dark olive skin and Jewish traits. And, as the son of a carpenter, He was probably deeply tanned by the sun.
Throughout history and in every culture, people have tended to portray Jesus as someone of their own race. Perhaps this is one reason God chose to be silent in His Word regarding the color of Jesus’ skin. The Bible teaches that God created the various races of the world and made each of them unique (Acts 17:26–27). Our Lord, Jesus Christ, came to identify with people of every race (Matthew 28:19). God the Father loves all people and sent His Son to save the world (John 3:16–17; Revelation 5:9).
More important than identifying Christ’s racial ethnicity is understanding His mission—which included becoming part of the human race (John 1:14; Philippians 2:6–7). In a world where race so often divides people, Jesus Christ came to unite people in faith and love (John 13:34; Colossians 1:4). God wants us to accept one another in our differences (Galatians 5:22).
Race and national heritage fade into the background when members of Christ’s body assume their richer identity as the children of God with shared citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Then we can agree with the apostle Paul, who said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
We can also agree with Billy Graham, who wrote in his book World Aflame, “In Christ the middle wall of partition has been broken down. There is no Jew, no Gentile—no black, white, yellow, or red. We could be one great brotherhood in Jesus Christ.” Addressing a question about racial discrimination, Billy Graham also said, “Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. . . . He belongs to the whole world.”
Perhaps a better question than “What race was Jesus?” is “What race was Jesus for?” The resounding answer is—the whole human race.
Recommended Resource: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Updated Edition by Alfred Edersheim
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