Some contemporary groups suggest Jesus was a black or African Hebrew. Is there evidence for this view? Was Jesus black?
A straightforward look at the history of the life of Jesus in the Gospels notes He was the virgin-born son of a Hebrew woman from the town of Nazareth in the modern-day nation of Israel. A descendant of Jews, Jesus would have certainly been born with a Jewish complexion, typically consisting of an olive, light brown skin tone. This is also supported by the fact that Jesus fit well within His local Jewish culture and was known as being from Nazareth and being a Galilean (Matthew 26:69).
Many quickly dismiss the idea of the Jewishness of Jesus as unimportant. However, the Jewish physical background of Jesus is important for a variety of reasons. First, Jesus came as the promised Jewish Messiah. This would require Him to be physically Jewish, including features others would recognize as Jewish. The very first verse of the New Testament clearly proclaims the Jewish ethnicity of Jesus: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1).
Second, the messianic prophecies could not be fulfilled in Jesus unless He was physically Jewish. To be from the tribe of Judah required Jewish lineage. It is evident from passages such as Hebrews 7:14," For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah," that Jesus was ethnically a Jew.
Third, Jesus could only be rejected and suffer as the Jewish Messiah if He was Jewish. If Jesus had been of another background, the fulfillment of Isaiah 53 of Jesus as the suffering servant of the Jewish people would not have been able to take place. In fact, verse 2 notes, "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." This prophecy made clear that the looks of the Messiah were not the focus; it was His role that held utmost importance.
Fourth, John 4:22 specifically notes the Jewishness of Jesus from His own perspective: "You [the Samaritans] worship what you do not know; we [the Jews] worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews."
Finally, Jesus was nailed to a cross with a sign that called Him "King of the Jews." To both Jews and Gentiles, Jesus was seen as a Jewish man who claimed to be a king. While He was rejected, His resurrection proved His claim as the Messiah.
The evidence clearly supports the view that Jesus was an ethnic Jew with a Jewish complexion. This Jewish Messiah is the One who calls those of every background to come to Him for salvation (Acts 4:12), offering eternal life to all who believe (John 3:16).
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