Was the Historical Jesus White?

In recent days controversy has arisen regarding the racial identity of Jesus Christ courtesy of remarks made by Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

Kelly declared on the cable news channel that Jesus was white, spurring much debate and controversy online and offline.

Craig Mitchell of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., told The Christian Post that the historical Jesus was likely not white.

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"He was Semitic and he was probably of olive complexion or maybe a little darker, but he wasn't black," said Mitchell.

"When you look at the average person of Middle Eastern extraction that's probably the color of skin that He had; some might say that that's white, some would say that it's not."

Mitchell also told CP that he felt the controversy over Kelly's statements was "a lot of ado about nothing."

"Unfortunately, we live in a time where things are just racially charged," said Mitchell, who added that "she should have been more sensitive to the situation."

Last Wednesday, Fox News figure and social commentator Megyn Kelly declared in a television segment on the cable news channel that Jesus and Santa Clause were white.

"You know, I've given her her due. Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change," said Kelly, referencing a piece in Slate by Aisha Harris about a black versus white Santa.

"Jesus was a white man too. It's like we have, he's a historical figure that's a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?"

An op-ed published in The Atlantic last week criticized Kelly for claiming that Jesus was white.

"The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man."

"If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA."

The Atlantic op-ed also argued that Kelly's description of Jesus as white "is wrong on both the facts and the essential universality of the Christian message."

"As some historians and theologians have posited, the silence of the Scriptures on the issue of Jesus' skin color is critical to Christianity's broad appeal with people of various ethnicities," the op-ed asserted.

"In a world where race often divides communities and even churches, the Biblical depictions of God's son positions him as one who can bridge those divides."

A similar controversy took place earlier this year when the History Channel's hit miniseries "The Bible," which had a black actor playing the role of Samson.

Andrew Vaughn, executive director of the American School for Oriental Research at Boston University and expert in the Hebrew Bible, told CP in an earlier interview that while Samson was likely not black, it was a minor issue.

"Historically, the Bible describes Samson's parents as Israelites from the tribe of Dan, so it is unlikely that the historical Samson would have been so dark skinned," said Vaughn.

"I do not think that it is important whether or not the person playing Samson in 'The Bible' mini-series is Caucasian or African. Indeed, the historical Moses most likely did not look like Charlton Heston, but that fact does not make 'The 10 Commandments' an ineffective movie."

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