Due to the current atmosphere in America, many ridiculous reports have been claimed that Jesus (and by extension the ancient Jews) was either black skinned or white skinned. The racism from the evolutionary philosophy should not surprise anyone,1)see Heath Henning, “Racist Implications of Evolution,” August 4, 2016; http://truthwatchers.com/racists-implications-evolution/ but to attempt to use Jesus Christ’s name to advocate racist views is shameful. Such ignorant opinions are neither established by facts of history, but only expressed by highly emotional assertions. Since Abraham and his wife Sarah were the originating parents of the Jewish people with their own origin of migrating from the Mesopotamian region (Acts 7:2-4), we will start with our study of history from that location.

Sumerian myth suggests that the gods “had fashioned the black-headed (people),”2) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969), p. 43 which in this context is referring to the original creation of mankind, hence all humans descended from these black-headed people. Akkadian metaphor used the same phrase, “the black-headed ones, his creatures”3) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 69 for the human race,4) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 69 fn. 110 “whom his [Agaku] hands have created.”5) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 70

Another Akkadian myth, A Vision of the Nether World, described “a man (also), his body was black as pitch; his face was like that of Zu[.]”6) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 110 The Epic of Gilgamesh describes Enkidu as “a young man whose face was dark, like unto Zu was his face.”7) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 87 However, when Gilgamesh was dirty he had to “wash of his grime in water clean as snow[.]”8)Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 96 So there was a contrast in the complexions of these two friends.

The Lamentation text of the destruction of the city Ur, where Abraham is from (Genesis 11:31; 15:7), states, “The black-headed people do not wash themselves during the feasts, like… verily dirt has been decreed for them; verily their appearance has changed.” (ellipsis in original)9) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 462 This would indicate that the dirt has changed the appearance making them dark, implying that the “black-headed” metaphor is likely describing their hair, not skin. Solomon is also said to have black bushy locks of hair (Song of Solomon 5:11) which is contrasted to him being white and ruddy (Song of Solomon 5:10). The Lamentation over the destruction of Ur must postdate the city’s destruction setting its date of composition somewhere in the first half of the second millennium B.C., obviously sometime after Abraham left the area. Herod the Great, though he was not a Jew but Ideumean (i.e. Edomite which is closely related to the Jews), is said to have “colored his hair black, and tried to conceal what would reveal how old he was,”10)Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews 16.233; The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 541 which exposes his natural hair color before going grey when he tried to dye it black again.

The Genesis Apocryphon discovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated between 1st century B.C. to the first half of the 1st century A.D., relates the events of Abraham and his wife Sarah going into Egypt shortly after arriving in Canaan (Genesis 12:10-20). Recording an Egyptian’s observation of Sarah with a midrashic expansion of Genesis 12:14, “How fair are her breasts and how beautiful all her whiteness!”11)The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 486 Assuming she also had black hair being a “black-headed” woman from Mesopotamia, she would identify close with the picture of Solomon who lived about a thousand years later.

Egyptian text drew a distinction between “an Asiatic and a Negro,”12) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 232 during the Eighteenth Dynasty (around 1570 B.C.). An extent list from Ramses III (about 1195-1164 B.C.) mentions “male and female slaves whom I had carried off from the lands of the Asiatics. Syrians and Negroes of the captivity” with a comment a little further down about the “apiru” believed to be etymological linked to Habiru, that is the Hebrews.13) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 261 The apiru  are generally considered Asiatic by the Egyptians. An Egyptian hymn from a papyrus dated between 1550-1350 B. C., refers to the god Atum, “who made the people, Distinguishing their nature, made their life, and separated colors, one from another.”14) Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition (ed. James B. Pritchard) Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 1969) p. 366 In the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus reports of a man named Sabinus, “a Syrian by birth… his color was black,”15)Josephus, War of the Jews 6.54-55; The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 884 which must have been uncommon enough to deserve special mention. Egypt being located in northern Africa would be knowledgeable from the earliest centuries to distinguish between Asiatics (Palestinians) and Africans.

Africans had been traveling into the Palestine region from many centuries prior to the time of Christ (2 Chronicles 12:3; 14:9-13; 16:8; 21:16; Isaiah 20:4; Jeremiah 13:23; 38:7-12; 39:16; 46:9; Ezekiel 30:9; Daniel 11:43; Amos 9:7; Zephaniah 2:12; Acts 8:27). The word “Ethiopian” is translated from the word that would literally be renders as “Cushite,” so it does not always imply an individual from Africa. It can express dark skin (Jeremiah 13:23), but Moses’ wife was also called an Ethiopian (Numbers 12:1) though she was a Midian (Exodus 2:15-21), an area located in modern day Saudi Arabia. First century Jewish author Philo assumed Moses’ wife was a black Ethiopian. He wrote, “For the external sense, being really shameless and impudent, though considered as nothing by God the father, in comparison of him who was faithful in all his house, to whom God himself united the Ethiopian woman, that is to say, unchangeable and well-satisfied opinion, dared to speak against Moses and to accuse him, for the very actions for which he deserved to be praised; for this is his greatest praise, that he received the Ethiopian woman, the unchangeable nature, tried in the fire and found honest; for as in the eye, the part which sees black, so also the part of the soul which sees what is meant by the Ethiopian woman.”16)Philo, Allegorical Interpretation 2.67; in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged New Updated Version (Trans. C. D. Yonge), (Peabody, MA: 1997), p. 45 Though Philo erred in thinking Moses’ wife was black, his idea commended Moses for seeing beyond the skin color as we all should do.

3 Enoch, composed in the fifth century A.D., has angels calling “one born of a woman” signifying to Enoch with a derogatory phrase “a white drop” depicting his complexion.17)3 Enoch 6:3; The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 261 The Testament of Solomon, a slightly earlier text, has a demon named Onoskelis reported to King Solomon the preference to associate “with those whose skin is honey-colored,”18)Testament of Solomon, 4:6; The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 965 which seems to be contrasted to Solomon who was a Jew. However, Josephus writing earlier describes king David “to be of a yellow complexion[.]”19)Josephus, Antinquity of the Jews,  6.164; The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 212 Josephus also discusses an anti-Semitic Greek author Cherilus, who in his ancient writings portrays the Jews as “their heads were sooty; they had had round rasures on them; their heads and faces were like nasty horse-heads also, that had been hardened in the smoke.” 20)Josephus, Against Apion 1.174; The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 947 By representing the Jews dark and sooty, he is making a vulgar exaggeration to contrast the Jewish skin tone with his own European complexion. Clearly the Jews had a darker tan color than this Greek Caucasian.

The Mishna, composed in the 2nd century A.D. discusses the discoloration caused by the plague of leprosy which designates the Jews with intermediate skin pigment. “In a German the Bright Spot appears as dull white, and in an Ethiopian what is dull white appears as bright white. R. Ishmael says: The Children of Israel (may I make atonement for them!) are like boxwood, neither black nor white, but of the intermediate shade. R. Akiba says: Painters have colours wherewith they depict figures in black and white and in the intermediate shade. A man should bring paint of an intermediate shade and encompass the leprosy-sign therewith, and it will then appear as on one whose skin is of the intermediate shade.”21)Negaim 2:1; The Mishnah (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 678 When God gave a sign to Moses by making his hand leprous his hand appeared “white as snow” (Exodus 4:6) but was immediately returned to its normal color again (Exodus 4:7). Moses’ sister Mariam also “became leprous, white as snow” (Numbers 12:10), which was not her normal appearance. Another text in the Mishna defines what makes a priest unqualified to serve in the Temple, including “If he is black-skinned or red-skinned or an Albino,”22)Bekhoroth 7:6; The Mishnah (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 539 because the black or red skin complexion would imply they were not of a pure descent to be priests and the albino would be considered as a blemish disqualifying him from service.

Some advocating the Jews were black offer Lamentation 5:10 as a proof text. “Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.” The blackness of the skin here is clearly caused by the famine. The Babylonian siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1-2) caused such a famine that the people resorted to cannibalism (Lamentations 4:10; Jeremiah 19:9). In Jeremiah 14:1-4 it is also said they were black because of the dearth and lack of water. Lacking proper nutrients can cause skin pigments to turn black. Diseases such as scurvy have these symptoms usually concentrated in the legs. An Irish famine was recorded with similar descriptions. Richard Lawrence a colonel in Cromwell’s army, wrote, “About the year 1652 and 1653, the plague and famine had swept away whole countries that a man might travel twenty or thirty miles and not see a living creature… [except] very aged men with women and children… [whose] skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.”23)Leslie A. Clarkson and E. Margaret Crawford, Feast and Famine: A History of Food and Nutrition in Ireland 1500-1920, Oxford University Press (New York, NY: 2002), p. 137 The famine in Jerusalem caused by the siege of the Babylonian army made food scarce causing malnutrition within the Jewish population. Jeremiah states this clearly in Lamentation. “Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire: their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick” (Lamentation 4:7-8). The past tense shifts from describing what color they were to what color they presently are because the siege causing starvation. This should be understood in light of the historical information above. By calling themselves white, it is a relative term contrasting the blackness from the famine. It should be understood that the Jews were of a lighter intermediate skin tone, not white as the Anglo-Saxon, nor black as Africans, not even brown as those of the modern Middle East from Arabia or India. This all would obviously indicate the skin color of the Lord Jesus Christ who was a Jew in the first century.

The attempts to utilize Jesus Christ for arguing superiority to a certain skin color, is not new, but has always been heretical. Christ commanded His gospel to be preached cross culturally (Matthew 24:14; 28:19; Mark 13:10; 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Romans 1:5; 16:26; Revelation 7:9; 10:11). Even the future Temple will be built as a place of prayer for all nations (Mark 11:17). This is because we all descend from Adam and Eve and are of “one blood” (Acts 17:26). Early Christian authors rejected racism and slavery speaking of the Law which “prohibits an ox and ass to be yoked in the plough together; pointing perhaps to the want of agreement in the case of the animals; and at the same time teaching not to wrong any one belonging to another race, and bring him under the yoke, when there is no cause to allege than difference of race, which is no cause at all, being neither wickedness not the effect of wickedness.”24)Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 2.18.8; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, MA: 2012), vol. 2. p. 368 Slavery has existed from the most ancient records around the world, but history reveals that it was Islam that originated the racial orientated slave trade. “Although black captives had appeared in Egyptian iconography i the third millennium B. C. … through Hellenistic and Romans times, the Arabs and their Muslim allies were the first people to develop a specialized, long-distance slave trade from sub-Saharan Africa. They were also the first people to view blacks as suited by nature for the lowest and most degrading forms of bondage.”25)David Brion Davis, Slavery and Human Progress, Oxford University Press (New York,NY: 1984), p. 8 After the racist mentality of Islam infected Western Society, it was the Christian influence that fought to set it right again through emancipation laws.26)see David Cloud, America and Slavery, August 1, 2019; https://www.wayoflife.org/reports/america_and_slavery.php God loves the whole world (John 3:16) and is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

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