Jesus' skin color


My African American, ex-Catholic friend has a serious problem with the Catholic Church’s depiction of Jesus. Jesus is a Middle Eastern man, so His skin color should be as dark as today’s Middle Eastern men. But most Catholic pictures of Jesus show Him as a white man. How can I respond to this?



you may wish to remind your friend that the Catholic Church has NO official “depiction” of Jesus Christ other than what detail is given in the gospels. Icons, paintings, and other depictions by artists are not “official church teaching” although many artists through history have had great knowledge and appreciation of that teaching and attempted to portray it in their art. Art is a very individual thing and the artist portrays his own vision. Artists through history have depicted Jesus in ways that identify him with their own culture or in what they feel to be a more universal way. your friend has a bone to pick with Western art, so he should leave the Catholic Church out of it.

you will get some more info if you do a search on this topic because we had this discussion recently. If your friend has actually visited the middle East he will have noticed a wide range of skin tones, mix of facial features, hair and eye color. Also this is the wrong forum. Apologetics is for discussion of doctrinal topics. try popular media or spirituality.


Something tells your ex-Catholic friend has more serious problems with the Church than those art-related. Sounds to me like he just wants to pick a fight. I mean, seriously, what is there to respond to? Does he have a problem with Asians depicting Jesus as Asian?;_ylu=X3oDMTA4NDgyNWN0BHNlYwNwcm9m/SIG=14tqfmk4v/EXP=1172259838/**http%3A//

What about Jesus as a Black African?;_ylu=X3oDMTA4NDgyNWN0BHNlYwNwcm9m/SIG=12lj3b58h/EXP=1172259720/**http%3A//

Neither of these images are historically accurate. Do they also incur your friend’s displeasure?

– Mark L. Chance.


There is a predominently African American parish in a town about 50 miles from my home. They have a wall sized representation of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. There, He is depicted as a black African. I’ve seen black Madonnas as well. Remember Our Lady of Guadalupe? One of the reasons that she is so attractive to the indginous people of Mexico is because she actually looks like them. Nothing wrong with that. Representations of Jesus are not meant to actually depict the historical person of Jesus.


I believe that each of us pictures Jesus the way we picture ourselves. If we are white, then we see Jesus as white, if we are black then we see Jesus as black, if we are Asian then we picture Jesus as Asian.
Several years ago I lived in Panama and the first time I attended Mass I saw a black Christ on the cross. That was the first time I had ever imagined Christ being anything but white. Since that encounter I have come to realize that none of us actually knows what color He was so we paint Him to fit the image we have of Him in our minds.
It really doesn’t matter what color He was. What matters is our relationship to Him.


It is unlikely that Jesus was as light-skinned as I am. However He would probably have been accepted as “white” in a British pub.

The other question is whether His physical appearance was unusual. Nothing definite has come down to us in tradition or scripture.

Generally artists depict Jesus as a member of their own ethnic group. A Jew might have a legitimate objection to that. However members of other races, no.



Z-man. — I agree with your friend. Jesus was probably pretty brown.

It’s not a Catholic thing to depict him as white. One of the “whitest” Jesus images I ever saw was a beautiful 19th century stained glass window, white white Jesus with beautiful blond hair, just as pale as a good Englishman should be. . . and it was made for an Episcopalian Church.


I’m white.

I was watching a show once that morphed Jesus from the usual fair skinned white man into a very black skinned man.
The host of the show asked how the viewing audience would feel about a Black Jesus.

Didn’t bother me a bit.

Ain’t I just great?


I’d be willin to bet that he’d look allot like the rest of the decendents of Israel we can take a look at today.

I’d say odds are pretty good he was light complected with brown hair and brown eyes.


Question answered. Thread closed.

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