Je­sus was not a ‘Scan­di­na­vian sailor’

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It’s al­ways been a ge­o­graph­i­cal and eth­nic anom­aly that Je­sus is de­picted as Aryan – blond, blueeyed and tall – in much of Western art. Now a man from the US is chal­leng­ing the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art in New York on this prac­tice, call­ing it “of­fen­sive aes­thetic white­wash­ing”.

The New York Post re­ported that Justin Renel Joseph (33) has la­belled five paint­ings in the mu­seum of­fen­sive on the grounds that Je­sus ought to have “black hair like wool and skin of bronze”.

Joseph is a self-de­scribed “bira­cial male who is of He­brew and African de­scent”, and also “a Chris­tian”.

The mu­seum, mean­while, has de­fended the works, say­ing: “When they were painted, it was typ­i­cal for artists to de­pict sub­jects with the same iden­tity as the lo­cal au­di­ence. This phe­nom­e­non oc­curs in many other cul­tures.”

This comes a year af­ter artist and sci­en­tist Richard Neave used foren­sic an­thro­pol­ogy to put a face to Je­sus. Us­ing com­put­erised im­ages of three skulls from Is­raeli ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites near where history tells us Je­sus lived and worked, he shows Je­sus as he must have been – a Mid­dle East­ern Jewish man.

De­pic­tions of Je­sus that rock the Western re­li­gious sta­tus quo are com­mon, with An­dres Ser­rano’s Piss Christ and Doug Blan­chard’s Pas­sion of Christ: A Gay Vi­sion.

Joseph’s case, though, is a re­minder that the de­pic­tion of Je­sus as a “Scan­di­na­vian sailor”, as New York Daily News writer Shaun King says, is equally prob­lem­atic for those Chris­tians “oth­ered” by this Western de­pic­tion.

THE FACE OF JE­SUS Artist and sci­en­tist Richard Neave uses foren­sic an­thro­pol­ogy to show what Je­sus really looked like

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