Was Jesus black?

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QUESTION: Was Jesus black or was his skin color dark? What did he look like?

ANSWER: It cannot be known, with absolute certainty, whether Jesus was black or not. This is because the Bible gives us almost no physical description of him.

What we do know is that Jesus was a Jew and a descendant from the tribe of Judah. Jesus was specifically a descendant of David, King of Israel, who was described by the prophet Samuel as not being black or dark skinned but looking "ruddy," meaning red or reddish color.

And Samuel said to Jesse (the father of David and a person in the lineage of Jesus), 'Are all the young men here?' Then he said, 'There remains yet the youngest . . . and Samuel said to Jesse, 'Send and bring him . . . ' Now he was ruddy (Hebrew word admoniy, Strong's Concordance Number #H132, meaning "reddish of the hair or complexion"), with bright eyes, and good-looking (1Samuel 16:11 - 12).

What does black symbolize in the Bible?
Is Jesus the Old Testament God?
Map of King David's military victories

Note also that this ancestor of Jesus had bright eyes and was good-looking, although having beautiful ancestors is certainly no guarantee of how a person looks. Although he does not mention him being any particular skin color like black, Isaiah the prophet does give us a general description of his appearance.

It was the will of the Lord that his servant (Jesus) grow like a plant taking root in dry ground. He had no dignity or beauty to make us take notice of him. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing that would draw us to him (Isaiah 53:2)

We also know, based on the Biblical principle that men in general should not have long hair, that Jesus had his short. With the exception of those under the Nazarite vow, Scripture teaches that it is shameful for a male to have long locks (1Corinthians 11:14, 16). There are also several reasons why the image of a man on the famed Shroud of Turin is decidely NOT that of Christ!

One former well-known religious author and preacher wrote extensively concerning what he thought Jesus looked like. He believed he was of average height for his time. Additionally, because of the hard work of helping his stepfather Joseph in the carpentry business, the preacher thought the Lord was likely thinner rather than fat and was somewhat physically strong due to the activities required of such an occupation. Our Savior looked like the average Jew who lived in Palestine during the first century A.D.

Considering the Biblical description and racial characteristics given us by secular history, the evidence points to the fact that Jesus was not black or African in ancestry or looks. The important thing is that, no matter what he looked like or what color was His skin, He was (and is) the Son of God who willingly gave his life for ours.

Additional Study Materials
When did Jesus know he was God?
Map showing last travels of Christ
First Century Religious Leaders
Can God tell a lie?

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