Adventures in Theology BlogChase A. Thompson: Author, Pastor, Vigilante.
The following post is another excerpt from my new book, The Bible and Racism. It is available on Amazon and is a 200+ page exploration of what the Bible teaches about race and Jesus’ call for His church to be fully unified – every tribe, tongue, color and nationality worshiping together on earth as in Heaven. I would be honored if you would take a look at it! Here are 5 more powerful quotes from Chapter 14 of the book. I especially appreciate Tony Evan’s challenge that one must be a follower of Jesus FIRST – before one’s nationality, ethnicity, sex, etc. I also think C.S. Lewis’ warning that a ultra-nationalism can easily lead to racism, wars, and other atrocities.
Note: Here is Part 1 – 10 Quotes on Race and Racism.
6. For example, here are four pieces of the worldview, all of them undermining racism. First, at creation, all of us created in his image, all of us in his image. There are cataclysmic implications of human beings in the image of God — every kind of human being. Second sin and fall. We are one in our corruption. We are deep in solidarity in sin. You are so sinful and I am so sinful, we’re right there together. There is no exalting of another above another if we are both dead-bent rebels together on our way to hell. How vain is the exaltation of self, one sinner over another sinner? Third, the cross. Christ died to reconcile us both talking about Jews and Gentiles at that moment — in one body to the cross, to Christ through the cross to God, or you were slain.We say to Jesus in Revelation 5:9, “You were slain and by your blood, you ransom people for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation and you have made them a kingdom, one kingdom and priests to our God.” Why? I said it’s more than a social issue. Whenever I get to talk on this, I want to say to all conservative white folks who fear the social gospel, it’s not a social issue. It’s a blood issue. By your blood, you ransom them, all of them. You die to pull them together, Revelation 5:9. And fourth, faith. Not of works, and I think works means not only anything you do, but any distinctive you have does not commend you to God. Faith commends you to God and faith is a desperate I can’t help myself, which puts you in line with everybody. Therefore, the way into the family is designed to remove all ethnic barriers. (Source: Pastor John Piper Sermon, Race and the Christian, preached in 2012. http://www.desiringgod.org/)
Here, in just under three minutes, pastor John Piper is able to easily and systematically undermine racism with just a few logical and Scriptural points. As Piper says, there are “cataclysmic implications” in the truth of the Imago Dei – that humans are made in the Image of God. One of these implications is made clear in James 3:9, “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. my brothers, these things ought NOT be so” James :3:9 forbids Christians from cursing anybody with the rationale that ALL are created in the Image of God – I suggest that beating, kidnapping, and forced enslavement would also be banned under that understanding of humans being made in the Imago Dei.
7. The third ingredient [in love of country] is not a sentiment but a belief: a form, even prosaic belief that our own nation, in sober fact, has long been, and still is markedly superior to all others…I once ventured to say to an old clergyman who was voicing this sort of patriotism, “But, sir, aren’t we told that every people thinks its own men the bravest and its own women the fairest in the world?” He replied with total gravity–he could not have been graver if he had been saying the Creed at the alter–“Yes, but in England it’s true.” To be sure, this conviction had not made my friend (God rest his soul) a villain; only an extremely lovable old [butt]. It can however produce [butts] that kick and bite. On the lunatic fringe it [ultra-nationalism] may shade off into that popular Racialism which Christianity and science equally forbid. (Source: C.S. Lewis, the Joyful Christian, p. 189)
Lewis is absolutely right here, if a bit colorful. Nationalism – love of country – is not always a bad thing. It can be a very good thing, but when it becomes an ultimate thing, it gets very, very ugly. It must be remembered that Christians are not first and foremost American, or English, or Laotian, or Korean…but they are first and foremost aliens and strangers in the world, citizens of Heaven. (1 Peter 2:11)
8. We are operating on illegitimate standards that are not rooted in God, but rooted in culture, rooted in history, in background. And all of that may be facts but the question we must ask is: Is it the truth? You can have facts, but it not be the truth. The truth is an objective standard by which reality is measured; it’s God’s point of view on any subject. Just because you were raised a certain way. Once how you were raised disagrees with what God says, how you were raised was wrong! …If our pulpits were right we would have solved this problem of racism a long time ago. Slavery would have been solved, Jim Crow would have been solved, segregation — all of this would have been solved. But because the pulpits were anemic and allowed to take the place of the evil in America, we are still fighting that evil today! Because pulpits were silent biblically on this issue, maintaining a manifest destiny ideology that was in contrast to biblical theology! But that also explains why the Civil Rights movement was able to change it, because the church got out in front of it…Truth overrides tradition! Truth overrides color! Black is only beautiful when it’s biblical! …You must be Christian first. If we could get enough Christians to be Christian before white, Christian before black, Christian before Spanish … it doesn’t take 240 years to fix this. It takes about two minutes and 40 seconds…(Pastor Tony Evans, July 2016 sermon. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=KbhNCTJ-dUI)
Powerful words here from pastor Tony Evans. Though it is a bit of hyperbole to think we could fix racism in under three minutes, I agree that one of the things that have exacerbated racism is anti-biblical, and less than biblical, preaching on race from the pulpit.
9. These representatives of the saints in heaven are said to be around the throne. In the passage in Canticles, where Solomon sings of the King sitting at his table, some render it “a round table.” From this, some expositors, I think, without straining the text, have said, “There is an equality among the saints.” That idea is conveyed by the equal nearness of the four and twenty elders. The condition of glorified spirits in heaven is that of nearness to Christ, clear vision of his glory, constant access to his court, and familiar fellowship with his person: nor is there any difference in this respect between one saint and another, but all the people of God, apostles, martyrs, ministers, or private and obscure Christians, shall all be seated near the throne, where they shall for ever gaze upon their exalted Lord, and be satisfied with his love. They shall all be near to Christ, all ravished with his love, all eating and drinking at the same table with him, all equally beloved as his favourites and friends even if not all equally rewarded as servants.Let believers on earth imitate the saints in heaven in their nearness to Christ. Let us on earth be as the elders are in heaven, sitting around the throne. May Christ be the object of our thoughts, the center of our lives. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Not only did Spurgeon proclaim the equality among saints, but unlike some of the Puritans (who believed the same), Spurgeon’s understanding of equality among saints actually had practical implications that caused him to be an abolitionist and enemy of Victorian racism in England.
10. Go back to 1 Timothy with me. We read over this pretty quickly when we were walking through the first part of 1 Timothy, but I want to take you back there so you can see where Paul has already addressed this kind of slavery in 1 Timothy 1. Look at 1 Timothy 1:8. We will get to it in verse 10, but see the set up. 1 Timothy 1:8-10 says, Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, (ESV) What’s the last word? “Enslavers …” the word means literally “man stealers” or “slave dealers.” Anyone who kidnaps people for sale is unholy, profane and is denying the gospel. So, I want you to see very clearly that the Bible condemns, denounces physical abuse and human trafficking. I want to emphasize that for two reasons. One, if these two truths about physical abuse and human trafficking from both testaments … Old Testament and New Testament alike … if these two truths had been embraced by Christians in the 18th and 19th century, slavery would never have existed like it did in the South. The Bible explicitly denounces and condemns the kind of slavery that took place in the Southern United States, and pastors and church members who used this Word to justify their practices were living in sin. (Source: David Platt, “What about Slavery, Paul?,” in David Platt Sermon Archive (Birmingham, AL: David Platt, 2011), 3176.)
An excellent observation, by Southern Baptist IMB president David Platt, that Paul absolutely condemns “enslavers,” which were men that took other men and forced them into slavery. As that practice was at the very heart of the chattel slavery practiced in the United States and United Kingdom, the slavery found in those countries was outlawed biblically. Tragically, Confederate pastors and many other slavery apologists chose to turn a blind eye to passages like this in the Scriptures.
The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Bible and Racism. It is available on Amazon and is a 200+ page exploration of what the Bible teaches about race and Jesus’ call for His church to be fully unified – every tribe, tongue, color and nationality worshiping together on earth as in Heaven. I would be honored if you would take a look at it! The excerpt below, from 14, contains 10 great thoughts on race and racism from a variety of Christian writers, pastors, and leaders over the years. These are some of the most powerful quotes on race and racism that you can find, and I hope they are encouraging to you!
This post will simply be a large collection of excellent and challenging thoughts on race from faithful followers of Christ. You or I might not fully, 100 percent agree with every thought expressed here, but all of these passages are from solid and faithful Christians, and all are presenting ideas that should be grappled with. I might include a brief amount of commentary on a few of the quotes, but they will stand on their own by and large. The reason for including all of these quotes is to #1 spur you on towards godly and biblical thinking about race and #2 to demonstrate that there have been faithful voices in the worldwide church since the first century that have powerfully and passionately proclaimed good truths about race. Some might think (with reason) that the church in the past has been too often racist. While it is true (and inexcusable) that there have always been racists in every period of church history, I believe it is also true that those Christians who have known, proclaimed and lived biblical truths about race have outnumbered those who haven’t.
1. Sometimes we get a gem amongst the news, and to my mind there was a gem contained in a Reuter’s telegram, from Rio Janeiro, May 10th:—“The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies has voted the immediate and unconditional abolition of slavery in Brazil.” My heart rejoiced as I read that paragraph. I hope it does not mean that this vote can be defeated in some other Chamber, or the abolition be prevented by some other power; but if it means that slavery is to be immediately and unconditionally abolished in Brazil, I call upon you all to thank God, and rejoice in his name. Wherever slavery exists, it is an awful curse; and the abolition of it is an unspeakable blessing. All free men should praise God, and especially those whom Christ has made free, for they are “free indeed. (Source: 1888 Charles Spurgeon sermon, “Freedom at Once and for Ever,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 40 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1894), 349.)
I love Charles Spurgeon very deeply, and I especially love the fact that, even though he was a “product of his time,” he was not blinded to the Bible’s clear anti-racist teachings and their implications. Slavery is indeed an awful curse, and came about through the curse of Genesis 3 in the garden. Some might even say that slavery is man’s attempt to remove the burden of God’s curse in the garden (“you shall sweat for every drop of food you eat”) from himself and put it onto somebody else.
2. If you’re reading through the Bible and you get to Joshua 7 — especially if you’re a white American, especially if you’re Western person — you go “What?” In Joshua 7, a man named Achan, an Israelite — they’re coming into the promised land, they are strictly told you were not here for plunder — Achan takes some plunder, a robe, some wealth, takes it for himself, hides it under his tent. He breaks the law. He goes against God’s will, goes against the law for the Israelites. When it’s discovered, he’s not just punished, but his entire family is stoned to death with him. Western people — especially white Americans — say, “Wait a minute, he did it. They didn’t do it!” Now let me just get right off and say this. Most people and most other cultures, most other centuries understand why that happened. If you’re a New Yorker and you have some objection to some part of the Bible that you find offensive, I want you to realize it’s your cultural location that’s causing the offense… That if you can do something bad, the fact that you can do it, what helped you become the kind of person that can do it, was to a great degree your family. Your family produced you directly or at least failed to keep you from becoming that, and therefore at least actively or passively, your family participates in your guilt.
Most people, most places, Americans — especially white Americans — don’t understand that. Most people, most places recognize that because you’re not the product of your own individual choices, you are the product of a community. Not only are you the product of a community to a great degree, but that you by even participating in that community are producing other kinds of people with their particular kinds of character to because of your interaction with them. Joshua 7 says that there is corporate responsibility inside a family. I’ll take it up a little higher. In Daniel 9, now we’re talking about corporate guilt and responsibility inside a whole race or a culture because Daniel, in Daniel 9, confesses sins — repents for — and says it’s his responsibility to repent for sins that his ancestors did that he didn’t do it all. I mean I still hear it, though especially years ago when I lived in the South. I heard white people say, “Yeah, it’s a shame what slavery did, but I never owned any slaves so why in the world does anybody think that I as a white person now had any responsibility to that community over there at all? I didn’t own slaves.” But here is Daniel feeling a responsibility for and repenting for things his ancestors did. Why? Because he knows that the culture that he’s part of produced the sins of the past and he’s still part of that culture. He senses the responsibility and the Bible senses the responsibility. He senses the connection. (Pastor Tim Keller, 2012 message. Source: http://www.desiringgod.org/)
Tim Keller, if you are not familiar with him, is not a liberal theologian. He is a conservative, biblical, complementarian pastor in the Presbyterian Church of America, which is one of the most theologically conservative denominations out there. You might not agree with the dynamic that Keller is proposing here, but I believe that he has made a very good biblical case for what he is asserting, which is that we are, in part, defined by our culture and responsible for our culture.
3. Posterity is concerned in the actions of their ancestors or predecessors, in families, nations, and most communities of men, as standing in some respect in their stead. And some particular persons may injure, not only a great part of the world contemporary with them, but may injure and undo all future generations of many individuals, families, or larger communities. So that men who live now, may have an action against those who lived a thousand years ago; or there may be a cause which needs to be decided by the Judge of the world, between some of the present generation, and some who lived a thousand years ago. Princes who, by rapine and cruelty, ruin nations, are answerable for the poverty, slavery, and misery of the posterity of those nations. So, as to those who broach and establish opinions and principles, which tend to the overthrow of virtue, and propagation of vice, and are contrary to the common rights and privileges of mankind.—Thus, Mahomet (Mohammed) has injured all succeeding posterity, and is answerable, at least in a degree, for the ruin of the virtue of his followers in many respects, and for the rapine, violence, and terrible devastations which his followers have been guilty of toward the nations of the world, and to which they have been instigated by the principles which he taught them. And, whoever they were, who first drew away men from the true religion, and introduced and established idolatry, they have injured all nations that have to this day partaken of the infection.
Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 471.
For those that might have struggled with Keller’s idea (above) that we can be somehow responsible or involved with the sins that our ancestors have committed, you might be surprised that Keller’s understanding comes from Jonathan Edwards, a pastor and writer used mightily of God in the First Great Awakening. Edwards wrote fairly extensively about the evils of slavery and of man-stealing and abuse, but himself owned slaves. His son, however, came to greater understanding of truth, and released all of the Edwards family slaves six years before the American Revolution, and almost 100 years prior to the Emancipation Proclamation.
4. Tell me what you think, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the Christian Church desperately needs to be discipled regarding “race,” racism and justice. I once thought the most significant deficiency in Christian theology (at least in the West) was a deficiency in the theology of suffering. But I think there’s more ink used to help people with suffering than there is to help people think of themselves primarily as Christians and radically apply their new identity in Christ to fallen categories like “race” and insidious sins like racism.It’s tragic that the country’s biggest sin is racism and the Church’s biggest omission is racial justice. The tragedy gets compounded when one remembers that some quarters of the Church were once the strongest supporters of this sin. That means we’re working our way out of a deficit. The roots of racism are tangled with our faith. And this means we can’t assume some neutral stance, being formally against this sin but practically uninvolved. The root keeps creeping. We had better be weeding the garden of our faith and growing one another up into the fullness of Christ with attention to this anti-Christ called “racism.”Over and over the question I get from genuine and well-meaning Christians is, “How can I think about…?” Or, “What should I do about…?” Those are discipleship questions that desperately need answering in every local church—assuming we don’t want the roots of racism to find any soil in the body of Christ.
(Source: Thabiti Anyabwile https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/thabitianyabwile)
Thabiti, as an African-American pastor, writes a lot about race. I used to sort of naively think that it was more important to use all of our energies and ink focusing on Jesus and His gospel over and above anything else. I still believe that to be the case, but the fact is that the good news of Jesus has implications and practical impacts, which means we must write about issues like race and racism, and grapple with how the Word of God calls us to act in regards to them. I absolutely agree with Thabiti that the church has been complicit in racism too often in the past, and it has diminished and damaged our shining of the gospel. We do indeed need biblical discipling in the areas of race, racism, and justice. We need to think about it more, write about it more, pray for racial unity more, and walk out biblical racial justice more and more. I am hopeful that this book represents one very tiny step in that direction.
5. [You might say] “I got me some slaves and slave-girls.” What do you mean? You condemn men to slavery, when his nature is free and possesses free will, and you legislate in competition with God, overturning His law for the human species. The one made on the specific terms that he should be the owner of the earth, and appointed to government by the Creator – him you bring under the yoke of slavery, as though defying and fighting against the divine decree. You have forgotten the limits of your authority, and that your rule is confined to control over things without reason! Why do you go beyond what is subject to you and raise yourself up against the very species which is free, counting your own kind on a level with four-footed things and even footless things? [You say, ] “I got me slave-girls and slaves.” For what price, tell me? What did you find in existence worth as much as this human nature? What price did you put on rationality? How many obols (a unit of currency) did you reckon the equivalent of the likeness of God? How many staters did you get for selling that being shaped by God? God said, Let us make man in our own image and likeness. If he is in the likeness of God, and rules the whole earth, and has been granted authority over everything on earth from God, who is his buyer, tell me? Who is his seller? To God alone belongs this power… God would not therefore reduce the human race to slavery, since he himself, when we had been enslaved to sin, spontaneously recalled us to freedom. But if God does not enslave what is free, who is he that sets his own power above God’s?” (Source: Gregory of Nyssa’s Homilies on Ecclessiastes. 335.5, 335.6, 336.6) 300s AD
What a powerful challenge – and sound logical argument – from Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote the above circa 375 AD. If only the Confederate champions of slave-owning had genuinely grappled with Gregory’s Scriptural and rational arguments here.
Was Jesus White?
What…just a simple one word answer isn’t good enough for you? The truth of it is that Jesus wasn’t exactly white, nor was He precisely black either. He was, most likely, in the middle, and that’s not just me hedging bets. Ultimately, the question of “whiteness” is a difficult and awkward question to ask and answer for anybody, much less a historical figure from a disputed part of the world, but it is possible to drill down and get a good answer to the question.
In the past, the United States largely considered Middle Easterners as non-white, but things changed, at least on an official level, as the result of a court case in 1909. Sadly, the case was ignited and surrounded by a substantial amount of racism, particularly on the part of the federal government.
Officer George Shishim was a Lebanese-American police officer in Los Angeles County in the early twentieth century. In 1909, he arrested the white son of a prominent L.A. attorney for disturbing the peace. That a ‘yellow-skinned’ foreigner had arrested his son didn’t sit well with this attorney, and he sued the county, claiming that, as officer Shishim was Lebanese, that meant he was not white, but Chinese-Mongolian, and thus ineligible for citizenship in America. How a white attorney at the time came to characterize a Lebanese man as “Chinese-Mongolian” has a little bit to do with the conquerings of Genghis Khan, and a whole lot to do with plain old ignorant racism. The case would appear before Los Angeles Country Judge Hutton, and the federal government argued against the potential citizenship of Shishim, declaring that as a Middle-Easterner, he was not white, and thus not eligible for citizenship.
Shishim’s defense, however, was an absolute stroke of genius. He argued to the court, who largely identified as Christian, that, “If I am a Mongolian, then so was Jesus, because we came from the same land.” This proved to be a persuasive argument to Judge Hutton, who announced his decision the following day:
This is an application by one George Shishim, a Syrian, to be admitted to citizenship. The federal government, acting through the department of justice, objects to his admission, basing its objection on the sole ground that he is not a member of the white race in contemplation of section 2169 of the revised statutes of the United States. (Source: http://www.arabamericanhistory.org/archives/dept-of-justice-affirms-arab-race-in-1909/ )
And thus it was that Middle-Easterners, including Israelis, came to be considered “white.” by the United States government, largely against its will. Interestingly, there is a movement underway to overturn this designation, and it is likely that by the next census, ‘MENA’ will be a new designation, standing for “Middle East or North Africa.”
Just last week I posted a mock up of the cover for this book on my Facebook page. I included a two word description of the picture that said “current project,” and nothing else. That post has become one of the most controversial posts I’ve ever made on Facebook. It generated lots of likes and nearly 150 comments, which is a fairly high number for one of my posts. The reason for that many comments is that within about 15 minutes of posting the picture, one of my Facebook ‘friends,’ I lady I’ve never met before and actually don’t even know in real life, posted an excerpt from the book of Deuteronomy in response to my picture.
I read the excerpt with some degree of curiosity trying to discern what her comment meant, it had no context other than the verse itself, Deuteronomy 7:3, which is a prohibition that was aimed at the Israelites commanding them to not marry foreign wives in the promised land. For years, racists and people who have utterly misunderstood the Bible, have used that passage (and others like it) to decry interracial marriage, interracial relationships and those sorts of things.
Reading Deuteronomy 7 as a current prohibition against Christians marrying somebody of a different nationality or skin color is a tragic misunderstanding of Scripture that completely disregards who the Old Testament was written to and the context of those commandments in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 7:3-6 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 because they will turn your sons away from Me to worship other gods. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and He will swiftly destroy you. 5 Instead, this is what you are to do to them: tear down their altars, smash their sacred pillars, cut down their Asherah poles, and burn up their carved images. 6 For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.
The Jews were not allowed to intermarry with foreigners, not because of the color of their skin, but very clearly because of their religion. By this command, God sought to keep the hearts of the Israelites pure and their worship focused solely on Him, in keeping with the first commandment, “Do not have other gods besides Me.” It had nothing to do with keeping their blood pure.
Suspicious of the post, and wondering why she chose to post that particular Scripture, I went to check out my ‘friend’s’ Facebook page and discovered a trove of highly racist memes, racist comments and claims, and other highly offensive and inaccurate material including the picture you see below, which alleges that the Bible is only about white people , that Adam was a white person and that any attempt to describe the Bible as a book about mixed races is completely false.
I was incensed, disgusted and deeply troubled at the level of false teaching she was promulgating and therefore I challenged her comment on my Facebook page with some degree of firmness. This, as you might imagine, ignited one of those comment wars that are becoming more and more common on social media, as she apparently tagged in several of her white nationalist racist friends and, without any effort on my part, several of my friends joined in and for a while it was a free-for-all.
Her primary henchman, and I think that is an appropriate word for the situation, was a German Nazi white supremacist that claimed to love the Jews. (Yes, it was a very strange conversation.) In fact the first commenter herself claimed to be a Jewish person despite the fact that she was quite clearly a southern American. This was a new flavor of racism for me and upon a little bit of research I discovered that there was quite a few people who make the claim that the Israelites were white, Adam was white, Jesus was white, and that the only race that is eligible for salvation is the white race. According to these white supremacists’ abominable teachings, no other race is eligible for salvation. The Bible is about white people and was only written to white people. Thus, according to my ‘friend’s’ henchman, racism is actually a kindness and displays love, because it’s communicating the will of God.
What a disgusting and horrific idea! But it does at least raise an interesting question: what color was Jesus? Many people have in their mind a view of Jesus as a lithe white man with long hair. The trouble with this picture of Jesus is that it comes from the Italian Renaissance, where the Italian painters initially depicted Jesus as somebody very similar to them, with long hair (as was the fashion in that day), slightly tanned skin, and a white robe. The only part of that depiction that has some basis in reality is the robe. The fact is, we have no surviving pictures of Jesus from His time. The earliest surviving picture we have that depicts Jesus is copied below, dates from the 200s, and obviously doesn’t show details about the race of Jesus or much about His appearance or anything like that. One of the other earliest depictions of Jesus dates from the 300s AD, and is a picture with quite a bit more detail present in the facial area. Surprisingly, this second picture does appear to show Jesus as a dark-skinned man.
The pictures above are not definitive, however what we do know is that Jesus was in Israel and the Bible never describes Him in a way that would particularly distinguish Him from the rest of His people. For instance, Jesus is never described as being particularly tall, fat, balding, redheaded, etc., Therefore it is quite reasonable to conclude that Jesus probably looked much like the other Israelite men of His day.
So, what did the Israelites look like? Are Israelites white? The fact of the matter is that the Israelites are a Middle-Eastern people with a great amount of variety within their borders just like Americans, Asians and Africans have a great amount of variety among their peoples. If you were asked to describe a typical American, that might be somewhat difficult, given the wide variety of people in America. Nevertheless, it is possible to engage in some small amount of description of the average first-century Israelite, and therefore to give a pretty good facsimile representation of what Jesus probably looked like. In recent times, Scientists have actually done this through skeletal remains, and reconstructed a picture and description of what the average Israelite, and therefore Jesus, could have looked like. That reconstruction depicts Jesus as a man with olive/brown skin, black and short hair, and a heavy black beard. It isn’t exactly a picture of the historical Jesus, but it is a scientific representation of what the average Israelite person would look like.
Some might be surprised that Jesus didn’t have long hair, but the only Jewish men who had long hair in first century Israel were those who had taken a Nazirite vow. We know that Jesus probably didn’t have long hair because the apostle Paul wrote that it was shameful for men to have long hair, and, as Paul saw Jesus on the Damascus Road, it is highly unlikely that Jesus had the sort of long hair that is depicted of him in most pictures. Further, if the scientific reconstruction of first century Israelites is accurate, then Jesus would be neither black nor white, but somewhere in between.
What difference does it make? The problem with this discussion is that “whiteness” is a relative term and it’s not a very helpful one. People don’t genuinely have white skin – an actual white-skinned person would be awfully strange looking. People that are Caucasian generally have a peach/pinkish tone to their skin, and I’m not really sure how that came to be referred to as white, but as we’ve seen in earlier chapters, true white skin is considered diseased skin. The funny thing about “whiteness” is the fact that most people in the white community generally consider paleness to be a less than attractive feature. In fact, in the United States of America, many people pay good money to lie in coffin-like light booths, so that ultraviolet lamps might turn their skin a few shades darker, because in their mind, darker skin on a white person looks more attractive. What a strange set of circumstances!
If you would like to read more about this topic, please allow me to encourage you to read The Bible and Racism, available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bible-Racism-What-REALLY-about-ebook/dp/B075846YB8/
NEW BOOK: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes! BONUS: VIDEO Interview with Arthur Conan Doyle on the Origin and Inspiration of Sherlock Holmes
I’m happy to announce that my third book, The Wisdom of Sherlock Holmes, has JUST BEEN RELEASED! I would be honored if you would click the link below and go look at it. I would be grateful beyond words if you would take the time to read the book and offer up a charitable review on Amazon or Goodreads. As an independent author, I can tell you that one review on Amazon is worth its weight in gold! In the book, I discuss the faith of Sherlock Holmes and prove with his own words that he was undoubtedly a believer in God, and even had some very solid orthodox and biblical views. It is surprising to many (who are only familiar with modern depictions) that Sherlock Holmes is demonstrably not an atheist, but talks about God in over a dozen of his adventures. My book includes every Holmesian reference to God that I could find, and much more, including his famous relationship with John Watson, the fact that Sherlock would often carry a gun into his adventures, the origins of his deerstalker hat and cape (never worn in the books) and much more. It also includes a full chapter on Holmes’ detective and deduction techniques, as well as a chapter that looks at the weaknesses of the great detective (perhaps sexism and racism?) I would be honored if you’d click the picture below and read the book. It is dirt cheap and FREE on Kindle Unlimited. Be sure to also scroll down and watch (and read the transcript of) the ONLY surviving video interview of Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle. The last half of the interview is about Conan Doyle’s silly spiritualism/psychic views, but the first part is all about the creation and origin of Sherlock Holmes. Very interesting!!
TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW WITH ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE: (Note that Conan Doyle credits Dr. Joseph Bell as being his inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. My book, The Wisdom of Sherlock Holmes, discusses this in detail, and includes a chapter on Dr. Bell’s real life adventures as a doctor and consulting medical detective!) This interview was conducted in 1927 and came out several months BEFORE the first major talking movie, The Jazz Singer. It is really quite remarkable to have a preserved video interview of Conan Doyle, considering that we have no surviving video of C.S. Lewis, a British author who died 30 years after him, C.S. Lewis.
NOTE Several points of interest in this interview:
- Arthur Conan Doyle somehow, someway, does not believe that Sherlock Holmes is real. Perhaps this is because Conan Doyle is older, and his faculties are fading. Tut, tut, Mr. Doyle.
- Part of his impetus for inventing Holmes was the habit of previous mystery writers to leave out the steps of solving a crime.
- He refers to Watson as, “stupid.” How dare he!?
- He considers his research into psychic phenomena (much of which turned out to be a hoax) as much more important than Sherlock Holmes. A very daft attitude!
There are two things that people always want to ask me. One of them is how I ever came to write the Sherlock Holmes stories, and the other is about how I came to have psychic experiences and to take so much interest in that question.
First of all, about the Sherlock Holmes stories. They came about in this way: I was quite a young doctor at the time and I had, of course, scientific training, and I used to occasionally read detective stories. It often annoyed me how in the old-fashioned detective story the detective always seemed to get at his results either by some sort of lucky chance or fluke or else it was quite unexplained how he got there. He got there but he never gave an explanation how. Now that didn’t seem to me quite playing the game. It seemed to me that he’s bound to give his reasons why he came to his conclusions.
But when I began thinking about this I began to think of turning scientific methods, as it were, onto the work of detection. And I used, as a student to have an old professor, his name was Bell, who was extraordinarily quick at deductive work. He would look at the patient, he would hardly allow the patient to open his mouth but he would make his diagnosis of the disease, also very often of the patient’s nationality and occupation and other points, entirely by his power of observation. So naturally, I thought to myself, “well if a scientific man like Bell was to come into the detective business, he wouldn’t do these things by chance, he’d get the thing by building it up scientifically.”
So, having once conceived that line of thought, you can well imagine that I had as it were, a new idea of the detective and one which it interested me to work out. I thought of a hundred little dodges, as you may say, a hundred little touches by which he could build up his conclusions and then I began to write stories on those lines. At first I think they attracted very little attention, but after a time when I began the short adventures, one after the other, coming out month after month in the Strand magazine, people began to recognize that it was different from the old detective, that there was something there which was new, they began to buy the magazine and uh, it uh prospered and so I may say did I, we both came along together. And from that time Sherlock Holmes fairly took root. I’ve written a good deal more about him than I ever intended to do but my hand has been forced by kind friends who continually wanted to know more, and so it is that this monstrous growth has come out of what was really a comparatively small seed.
But the curious thing is how many people around the world are perfectly convinced that he is a living human being. I get letters addressed to him, I get letters asking for his autograph, I get letters addressed to his rather stupid friend, Watson, I’ve even had ladies writing to say that they’d be very glad to act as his housekeeper. One of them, when she’d heard that he’d turned to the occupation of keeping bees, wrote saying that she was an expert at segregating the queen, whatever that may mean, and that she was evidently pre-destined to be the housekeeper of Sherlock Holmes.
I don’t know that there’s anything more that I can say with advantage, about him, but on the other point which is to me, of course, a very much more serious one, on the question of my taking up this psychic matter. Curiously enough my first experiences in that direction were just about the time when Sherlock Holmes was being built up in my mind. That would be about the year 1886 and 1887. So nobody can say that I’ve formed my opinions on psychic matters very hastily, it was just 41 years now since I wrote a signed article upon the subject which appeared in a magazine called Light so that I put myself on record.
[Warning: Nonsense below:]
During these 41 years I never lost any opportunity of reading and studying and of experimenting on this matter. People ask me will I write any more Sherlock Holmes stories, I certainly don’t think it’s at all probable. [Editor’s Note: HE NEVER DID, SADLY, AS HIS LAST TWO STORES APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED DIRECTLY BEFORE THIS INTERVIEW] As I grow older the psychic subject always grows in intensity and one becomes more earnest upon it. And I should think that my few remaining years will probably be devoted much more in that direction than in the direction of literature. None the less, of course, I haven’t abandoned writing, one has to earn one’s living, but my principal thoughts are that I should extend if I can that knowledge which I have on psychic matters and spread it as far as I can to those who have been less fortunate.
Don’t for one moment suppose that I am taking it upon myself to say that I am the inventor of spiritualism, or that I am even the principal exponent of it. There are many great mediums, many great psychical researchers, investigators of all sorts, all that I can do is to be a gramophone on the subject. To go about, to meet people face to face, to try and make them understand that this thing is not the foolish thing which is so often represented but that it really is the great philosophy and as I think the basis of all religious improvement in the future of the human race. I suppose I’ve sat with more mediums good, and bad, and indifferent than perhaps any living being. Anyhow, a larger variety because I’ve traveled so much all over the world and wherever I’ve gone, either in Australia, America, or South Africa, the best and the worst that can be had in that direction was put at my disposal. Therefore when people come along and contradict me, who’ve had no experience at all, read little and perhaps never been to a seance you can imagine that I don’t take their opposition very seriously. When I talk on this subject I’m not talking about what I believe, I’m not talking about what I think, I’m talking about what I know. There’s an enormous difference, believe me, between believing a thing and knowing a thing, and talking about things that I’ve handled, that I’ve seen, that I’ve heard with my own ears. And always mind you in the presence of witnesses, I never risk hallucinations. I usually in most of my experiments have had six, eight or ten witnesses, all of whom have seen and heard the same things that I have done.
Gradually I became more and more convinced on the matter as I studied year in, year out, but it was only at the time of the War, when all these splendid young fellows were disappearing from our view, when the whole world was saying, “what’s become of them, where are they, what are they doing now? Have they dissipated into nothing, or are they still the grand fellas that we used to know?” It was only at that time that I realized the overpowering importance to the human race of knowing more about this matter.
Then it was that I flung myself more earnestly into it and that I felt the highest purpose that I could possibly devote the remainder of my life to, was trying to bring across to other people, something of that knowledge and assurance which I had acquired myself. Certainly, the results have justified me. I am quite sure I could fill a room of my house with the letters that I have received from people, telling me of the consolation which my writings on this subject, and my lectures on this subject, have given to them. How they have once more heard the sound of a vanished voice and felt the touch of the vanished hand. Well, goodbye.
Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out! (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post) (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK)
“If my words fail to convince you, the empty tomb may”
– St. Jerome, 300s A.D.
“No one in Jerusalem would have believed the preaching for a minute if the tomb was not empty. Skeptics could have easily produced Jesus’ rotted corpse. Also, Paul could not be telling people in a public document that there were scores of eyewitnesses alive if there were not.” 
– Tim Keller
A strong majority of scholars grant that the tomb of Jesus was found empty after his resurrection. Not all of those scholars actually believe that it was empty because of the resurrection, but they do grant its emptiness. Writing “a strong majority,” here is not an unsubstantiated claim, nor an exaggeration. Dr. Gary Habermas, one of the world’s foremost experts on the resurrection of Jesus (and my apologetics professor during seminary), has surveyed 3,400 scholars in this field, and he finds that upwards of 75 percent of them agree that the tomb of Jesus was empty. Even very skeptical scholars like Dr. Bart Ehrman, an agnostic at best, grants that it is almost certain that Jesus’ tomb was found empty three days after His burial, “We can conclude with some certainty that Jesus was in fact buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb and that three days later the tomb was found empty.”
As a historical fact, the empty tomb is difficult to dispute. Consider how quickly the movement to worship Jesus began in Jerusalem, particularly after Pentecost when thousands joined the Jerusalem disciples. It is clear from both biblical accounts and other history that the Jewish authorities opposed this new “cult” that was following Jesus. Given that, why didn’t the authorities, utilizing their temple guard, go to the tomb of Jesus, roll the stone away, and produce the corpse of Jesus? Yes, His body might have been decomposed after a few weeks, but Jerusalem is in an arid area, and it would likely be dry enough inside the burial cave that the body of Jesus would have been quite recognizable. Except, there is literally not a single ancient account of such a thing happening, not even from the enemies and critics of nascent Christianity.
Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase, “a skeleton in the closet.” This metaphor refers to a situation where there is something hidden in one’s life that could be the undoing of that person. The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allen Poe, is perhaps the most famous fictional representation of the skeleton in the closet trope. In that Poe classic, one man murders another, and hides his body under the floorboards of his house. Police officers arrive the next day to investigate the scream of the murdered man as he died, but they see no evidence of foul play, and have a very casual discussion with the narrator of the story, who is the murderer. As the officers converse with the unnamed narrator, his guilt manifests so that he hears the heartbeat of the man he murdered, and that heartbeat gets louder and louder. Finally, just before the officers proceed to exit without suspicion, the guilty man breaks down, confesses his deed, and tells the officers where the body is hidden. Thus, the metaphorical skeleton in the closet is revealed to be an actual corpse hidden in the floor beams.
If skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus are correct, then the disciples in the first two decades after the death of Jesus also had a sort of skeleton in their closet. If the tomb of Jesus wasn’t TRULY and FACTUALLY empty, then the Jewish officials could have easily opened the tomb and demonstrated to all that Christianity had a great hidden secret: namely, that it’s founder did, in fact, die, and stayed dead as well. And yet, there is absolutely no historical record that demonstrates that anything like this happened. Indeed, in Matthew 28:15, it is recorded that, at the time of the publication of Matthew (2-4 decades after the resurrection of Jesus), the Jews were saying that the disciples stole Jesus away. There would be no reason whatsoever to make such a claim if the tomb of Jesus had been anything but empty.
Wouldn’t it have been far easier, if it were possible, to have produced the body of Jesus and just been done with it? That probably wouldn’t have turned away every ardent Christ-follower, but it sure would have done so for most of them. However, the presentation of Jesus’ body to His followers never happened, because there was certainly no body to produce. Even if a skeptic went along with the explanation of the Jewish Sanhedrin, that Jesus’ body was stolen by His disciples, that skeptic still must grapple with the reality that the disciples almost all died horrible deaths, refusing to recant their allegiance to Christ. That would be an absurd thing to do if they were the ones that propagated a false story regarding the resurrection of Jesus. The stolen body theory defies logic, and has no ancient historical evidence.
This hoax theory, (That the disciples perpetrated a scam by stealing the body of Jesus and acting like He rose from the dead) not only does not account for the extreme suffering/martyrdom endured by those who would have enacted the scheme, but also doesn’t propose a good reason FOR performing the hoax in the first place. What could their motive possibly have been? I have not read a good skeptical theory that proposed anything worthwhile that the disciples of Jesus could have gained by perpetuating a myth that He rose from the dead. While some unscrupulous pastors and teachers have, in modern times, grown wealthy by exploiting their followers, Jesus clearly didn’t engage in that behavior; He was largely homeless, and it seems that none of His followers ever became very wealthy, comfortable, or materially blessed due to their proximity to Jesus!
Philosopher William Paley, writing in the 1700s, asked a series of questions that would seem to provide some logical prima facie evidence that the resurrection was not a hoax by the followers of Jesus: “Would men in such circumstances pretend to have seen what they never saw; assert facts which they had no knowledge of; go about lying to teach virtue; and though not only convinced of Christ’s being an imposter… bring upon themselves, for nothing, and with full knowledge of the consequences, enmity and hatred, danger and death?” It is highly unlikely that the disciples of Jesus would stick by their story of the resurrection unto their own deaths, unless they were thoroughly convinced that it actually happened beyond a shadow of a doubt. (Chapter continued in the book)
(Note: This is a partial preview of my book, you can continue reading FREE on Amazon via Kindle Unlimited, or you can purchase the book for a few pennies, OR you can find a friend reading it and take it when he isn’t looking!)
Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead)
#5: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #5 The Lithuanian Argument
#11: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #11 Bible Accounts are Too Detailed to Contain Mythic Information
#12: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #12 Bible Accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection are Too Early to be Mythical
#13: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #13 Textual Variants Demonstrate Biblical Reliability
#16: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #16 Skeptical Ancients, or Slack-Jawed Yokels?
#17: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #17 Minimal Facts Argument (Gary Habermas)
 Gary R. Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, ©2004), 30.
 Bart Ehrman, “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity,” Lecture 4: “Oral and Written Traditions about Jesus” (The Teaching Company, 2003)
 William Paley, The Works of William Paley: Archdeacon of Carlisle: with a Life of Author Volume 1 (Palala Press, 2015), 1
 Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 979.
 Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, ©2008), 203,