If modern Jews of Aramaic descent are considered "white" is it plausible to argue Jesus was white?

Re Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly’s pronouncement over the racial identity of Jesus and Santa Claus as being “white”, is it scientifically and historically plausible to argue the historical Jesus was white or not?

I don’t think “aramaic descent” is a thing. Aramaic was a lingua-franca of the near east in the first century. There wasn’t any particular idea of shared ethnicity amongst its speakers.

There are several modern groups that still speak languages descended from Aramaic (including some Jewish ones), but they’re widely spread over the Middle East. IIRC, most of the Jews that speak a dialect of Aramaic came to Israel from Iran fleeing the revolution, and probably aren’t any closer in relation to Jesus then any other population of Jews.

Depends on exactly what you mean by “white.” Middle Easterners are usually considered Caucasian, but their skin color tends to be darker than Europeans. Is being “white” defined as being Caucasian, or is determined by actual skin color?

But if modern Jews of Aramaic descent are considered to be white, then Jesus was white. He probably had a darker skin than northern Europeans, though.

Sure, Jesus was white. Just like all those Arabs and Turks are white. And Pakistanis and Indians too. White, all of em.

Yet we don’t usually think of these people as belonging in the same group as Megyn Kelly and her fellow blonde mannequins at Fox News. If this guy knocked on Kelly’s door late at night, looking for a good Samaritan, would she describe him to the police as a white guy? Or would she say he was Hispanic or Middle Eastern? Maybe even a light-skinned black guy?

I’ve met my fair share of Ashkanazi Jews who look like light-skinned black folk. Wooly hair and everything. I still think Debbie Wasserman Shultz is an undercover sista.

I roll my eyes at Christians of any stripe who make a big deal about Jesus’s race. Black people included. It’s amazing that these folks can suspend their disbelief when it comes to believing in miracles and resurrection (let alone the theological underpinnings behind all of it). But they will have a heart attack if you dare challenge them on what they believe Jesus looked like.

How about these guys?

No. First, Aramaic is a language, not a race or a nationality.

Jesus could fairly be described as a Palestinian, but at the time Roman colonization was still a new thing, and blood mixing would have been relatively rare. Modern Palestinians with over two centuries of cultural integration (mostly European) don’t look much like Palestinians of Jesus’s times.

Was there a such thing as being “white” back in the first century? Did anybody identify themselves as white?

By who? Anthropologists? Because otherwise, no. Totally no.

What about Greek “colonization” several hundred years earlier? What about the over 1,000 years of Muslim rule (Arabs, Turks) right up until the the 20th century?

I’m not sure where you’re getting the 200 years of mostly European integration. The area of Israel and Palestine was constantly shifting between rule by the various regional powers, with some influx from European Crusaders. It’s been a crossroads of human migration for millennia.

Greeks are European. They are certainly more “white” than Palestinians of the time. After Constantine, Romans flooded the area, mostly scholars and priests to establish Christianity. The Crusades not only continued the explosion of Europeans to the area, but the Crusaders killed up to 100,000 of the native population in the fall of Jerusalem.

Exactly. So there was European rule long before the Romans.

And then Arabs and Turks cam back in when the Crusaders were kicked out.

If anyone is certain of Jesus’ skin color, who is it they claim to know? Color photographs or oil portraits taken during his lifetime? Physical descriptions written down? We just do not have that kind of information and everyone is speculating based on personal biases or supposing that he looked like a native of that time and era that we might have a portrait or physical description of. I’m going to go with the latter.

One of the very best friends of my entire life was an Israeli. Ultimately, our friendship ended over an argument in which I stated he was basically white. He never spoke to me again.

Whitin’ words, if you will?

Yes, today’s white Americans have been kind enough to admit Jews of European descent into the white people club. The meaning of white has changed a bunch of times and it will probably continue to do so. But when Americans think about Jews today, they’re often thinking about people who are of European descent (especially Eastern European descent) with more distant Middle Eastern ancestry. Someone who looked more like an Arab might be another story, and someone living in the Middle East during that period of time might’ve looked more like an Arab. This often comes up in the context of Jesus in art: if you look at paintings of Jesus, he looks more like the Europeans who commissioned and looked at the artworks than whatever he might’ve looked like historically.

Of course. Since Caucasian is basically an anthropological term (although an outdated one), yes.

In popular parlance Caucasian means white, but in terms of anthropological classification there are many very dark-skinned Caucasians, including southern Indians. In fact, according to some classifications Australian Aborigines were classified as Archaic Caucasians.

Pakistani is a nationality, not an ethnicity. Yeah really. Not a good example. At all.

Ditto India. Please do remember that.

The Bible typical identifies blacks with terms like The Ethiopian or other group names from Africa.

Jesus is depicted in Medieval Art with a swarthy complexion and dark brown hair. I’ve never seen a lily white blue eyed, blonde Jesus.

I’ve seen this painting in many Baptist Sunday School Rooms. Pretty typical and he’s swarthy with dark brown hair.

Not that it matters. The true importance of Christ is spiritual. What his body looked like isn’t important. Which is why he isn’t described in the Gospels.

I recall being told the black churches like A.M.E. had paintings of a black Jesus even when I was a little kid forty five years ago. It’s nothing new. It’s just an artist’s representation. There’s no photographs of Jesus or John the Baptist. :slight_smile:

There actually was an ethnic group called the Arameans, who were first recorded in history around the end of the Bronze Age (roughly 1200 BC). Their language, Aramaic, was adopted throughout the Middle East and kept going long after the Arameans themselves no longer existed as a distinct ethnicity. The original Aramean states in what is now Syria and southeast Anatolia/northwest Mesopotamia were early on conquered and absorbed by the Neo-Assyrian empire. By New Testament times their descendants were basically known as Syrians.

Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas, who was an Anatolian, from what is now southern Turkey. Very much a Middle Easterner. “Bollocks,” you may well retort. “He was Greek.” He was Greek-speaking during the Eastern Roman Empire when most of the Anatolians were speaking Greek. But even though Greek civilization spread over Anatolia in classical times, the original Anatolians didn’t pack up and go away (except for Aeneas & company). Their descendants stayed there and just learned to speak Greek. They were still the descendants of the Hittites and the other pre-Grecian nations of Anatolia.

The people in Saint Nicholas’s province were the direct descendants of an ancient Anatolian nation called Lycia. By that time they had become mixed with Greek blood, of course, just as nowadays they have a Turkish admixture. But the original Turks were Central Asian people who resembled the Mongols (the early origin of the Turkish people was actually in Mongolia), while in present-day Turkey only a minority of the population have recognizably Central Asian-looking features and the overall appearance is still Anatolian Middle Eastern. The Greek admixture in ancient Lycia was probably of a similar extent. Lycia also spent a few centuries speaking Persian as part of the Persian Empire. An intrusive civilization and language can come to dominate a nation even while the people themselves by and large remain the direct descendants of the people who’d always been there. So Saint Nicholas was a (Greek-speaking) Lycian Middle Easterner.

Forensic pathologists have used St. Nicholas’s skull to reconstruct what his face looked like. Middle Eastern? Judge for yourself.