Was Jesus Black or White?

Question

Was Jesus Black or White?

Answer

The Bible does not give us a description of the color of Jesus’ skin. The very first verse of the New Testament establishes the ethnicity of Jesus as Jewish (Matt. 1:1). His mother Mary was Jewish and a direct descendant of David (Luke 3:31) and so Jesus descended from Judah (Heb. 7:14). He was born under the Law (Gal. 4:4). His parents even performed what was required by Jewish law (cf. Luke 2:39).

The only physical description we have in the Bible concerning Jesus is given to us in Isaiah 52:3 which says, “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” So, Jesus would have looked like an ordinary Jewish man of the first century; a Jewish Galilean (cf. Matt. 26:69). So, the answer to your question is Jesus was most likely neither black or white, but would have had light- to medium-brown skin.

This said, what’s important is that it isn't about race, but about grace. What matters is not Jesus’ skin tone, but the color of his blood that he shed for his people. His blood was red, just like the blood of those he created in the very beginning and just like our blood today. And his shed blood, his death, his resurrection can graciously set us free from the tyranny of sin. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).