Was Jesus Christ a Negro?
A Rationalistic Review
By John G. Jackson (1933)
"That an imaginative and superstitious race of black men should have invented and founded, in the dim obscurity of past ages, a system of religious belief that still enthralls the minds and clouds the intellects of the leading representatives of modern theology—that still clings to the thoughts and tinges with its potential influence the literature and faith of the civilized and cultured nations of Europe and America, is indeed a strange illustration of the mad caprice of destiny, of the insignificant and apparently trivial causes that oft produce the most grave and momentous results."
A little over a half century ago Kersey Graves created quite a furor in the orthodox religious circles by writing a book which flaunted the sensational title of The World's 16 Crucified Saviors. One of the most interesting parts of the book is a section in which the author discusses the racial identity of Jesus and offers evidence that the Christian Savior was a black man. The passage referred to reads as follows:
There is as much evidence that the Christian Savior was a black man, or at least a dark man, as there is of his being the son of the Virgin Mary, or that he once lived and moved upon the earth. And that evidence is the testimony of his disciples, who had nearly as good an opportunity of knowing what his complexion was as the evangelists who omit to say anything about it.
In pictures and portraits of Christ by the early Christians he is uniformly represented as being black. To make this more certain a red tinge is given to the lips; and the only test in the Christian bible quoted by orthodox Christians as describing his complexion represents it as being black.
Solomon's declaration, I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem' (Sol, I, 5), is often cited as referring to Christ. According to the bible itself, then, Jesus Christ was a black man. Let us suppose that at some future time he makes his second advent to the earth, as some Christians anticipate he will do, and that he comes in the character of a sable messiah, how would he be received by our Negro hating Christians of sensitive olfactory nerves. Would they worship a Negro God?
The question might arise in the mind of the reader: "Well, the argument of Kersey Graves sounds plausible enough, but really we need a great deal more corroborative evidence before we can give his conclusions more than palling notice?" This question, the writer believes, is justified. In questions of historical controversy only the most careful consideration of evidence should satisfy us.
To say that the early pictures and images of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus represent them with black complexions is not enough. Our statement must be backed up by archaeological evidence. This evidence, fortunately, was collected by the Great British Orientalist, Sir Godfrey Higgins, and has been preserved for posterity in his monumental work, The Anacalypsis, or An Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions.
Sir Godfrey Higgins informs us that "In all the Romish (Catholic) countries of Europe, France, Italy, Germany, etc., the God Christ, as well as his mother, are described in their old pictures to be black. The infant God in the arms of his black mother, his eyes and drapery white, is himself perfectly black. If the reader doubts my word he may go to the Cathedral at Moulins—to the famous Chapel of the Virgin at Loretto—to the Church of the Annunciata—the Church at St. Lazaro or the Church of St. Stephen at Genoa—to St. Francisco at Pisa—to the Church at Brixen in Tyrol and to that at Padua—to the Church of St. Theodore at Munich—to a church and to the Cathedral at Augsburg, where a black virgin and child as large as life—to Rome and the Borghese chapel of Maria Maggiore—to the Pantheon—to a small chapel of St. Peters on the right hand side on entering, near the door; and in fact, to almost innumerable other churches in countries professing the Romish religion.
"There is scarcely an old church in Italy where some remains of the worship of the black virgin and black child are not to be met with. Very often the black figures have given way to white ones and in these cases the black ones, as being held sacred, were put into retired places in the churches, but were not destroyed, and are yet to be found there…
"When the circumstance has been named to the Romish priests they have endeavored to disguise the fact by pretending that the child had become black by the smoke of candles; but it was black where the smoke of a candle never came and, besides, how came the candles not to blacken the white of the eyes, the teeth and the shirt, and to redden the lips? Their real blackness is not to be questioned.
"… A black virgin and child among the white Germans, Swiss, French and Italians" (The Anacalypsis, Vol. I, Book IV, Chap.I). My friend, Mr. J.A. Rogers, the well-known traveler and journalist, has seen quite a large number of these black images of the Madonna and infant in his European travels and has discovered that some of the images possess African features. Evidently early Christians must have thought that Jesus Christ was a member of the Ethiopian race or they would not have so stressed the dark hue of the skin of the Savior and his mother in their pictures and statues.
According to Christian dogma, Jesus is the Son of God. Since children are, as a rule, similar in complexion to their parents it is reasonable to assume that God also is black. This conclusion is both logical and scientific. "There is a strong reason the think," declares Joseph McCabe, "that man was at first very dark of skin, wooly haired and flat nosed." And since the bible tells us that man was created in God's image, then beyond all doubt God must be of dark complexion with unmistakably African features.
Some of my friends have suggested that should it be generally believed in these United States that either Jesus or Jehovah was of sable hue that the Christian church would soon go out of business. They reason that white citizens of the nation, on account of race prejudice, would have absolutely no use for a black God: and the colored citizens would not have any confidence in an Ethiopian God who had so long neglected his own race of people. However, I do not think such a situation will come to pass, for the overwhelming majority of people do not believe what is plausible or what is true; they believe what is comforting or pleasing.
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