If you’ve ever heard me speak, you know that I usually start with the famous painting by Warner Sallman of called “The Head of Christ” that has hung in my family’s home since the 1950’s.
As much as I’ve loved this image of Jesus, I joke around about the fact that with his blue eyes and fair skin he looks almost as Scandinavian as I am, and wonder if he maybe went to the same salon that I did for his blond highlights.
I go on to point out that it’s not really that surprising that Caucasians have portrayed him as white, because as the gospel has gone out to the world, people have represented him in ways that are familiar to them. In paintings in South America he tends to look Latino, and in China, he looks Asian. But then I invite my audience to ask what Jesus was like in his own native Middle Eastern culture and context.
Well, the joke was on me today, because today I was speaking in a Swedish Covenant church where they prominently display a real chalk sketch of Jesus by Warner Sallman (worth a lot of $$, actually) that he drew for them after his world-famous painting of Jesus was published. Apparently he was a member of the Covenant denomination and he made this sketch when he was visiting this church. Sallman’s own family background was Swedish/Finnish – are you surprised?
(PS – To his credit, in Sallman’s chalk sketch at the church Jesus’ eyes were definitely brown. I checked close up. I believe that when he published the painting there were complaints about them – maybe he decided to change their color later.)
God bless you. I saw you on jewish voice and enjoyed the segment. The book looks interesting.
The Sallman painting was pretty much everywhere in the fifties but thankfully today we have a much more realistic view of Jesus. Isn’t there a verse in the bible says that his looks were nothing special?
Lois Tverberg says
You’re thinking of Isaiah 53:2- “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, no beauty that we should desire him.” This is a key prophecy about the suffering of Christ, but I don’t feel comfortable assuming that it should be read as an exact, literal description of Jesus. Prophecy is not like that.
Henry Beachey says
Lois, I always thought of Jesus as a dark haired dark eyed person, but I remember looking through a very old large bible in a Museum in the late 1960s. There was a pic. of Jesus, looking straight at you, with blond hair and very blue eyes. The caption said it was painted from a detailed description given by someone who had personally seen him, during His walk here on earth. I have no idea who painted it. It makes me wonder.
It is funny how the appearance of Jesus has become quite a controversial issue over the years. About a month ago, I was interested in finding out an estimation of how Jesus could have looked. Knowing that He came from the Tribe of Judah, I tried researching the physical appearance of the typical Jew from the Tribe of Judah. Much to my astonishment, I kept finding article after article, describing how all Jews were originally black and that Jesus was one of the blackest ones. And each article had their own analysis of different Bible passages to back their conclusion. Now, I am not against Jesus being possibly black. However, I don’t like the people’s aggressive and self-righteous attitude in their descriptions and reasoning, making me (being Caucasian) feel very inferior. And I also know that the black Africans came from Ham, one of the sons of Noah. The Jews came from Shem I believe. So, what did the ancient Jews really look like? I have my own idea of how they looked, but I am interested in your input on this.