Many people mistakenly see the coloring of many middle easterners today, dark skin, thick, often curly hair, and the mistakenly think that figures in Bible times would have looked the same. Increasingly in movies and media we have seen a transition away from portraying Bible figures as fair skinned people and a distinct move to portray them as olive completed and sometimes even black.
Moses as portrayed by Charlton Heston
Moses as portrayed in the recent The Bible miniseries
The Middle East currently still has some diversity when it comes to skin and hair color. Today you can find some blond hair blue eyed people, especially in Israel, although fair coloring in the Middle East is still rare. However, when reading the Bible and it’s description of the appearance of the many main characters we find them described as fair skinned, light haired people.
Jacob, the father of Israel, was the twin brother of Esau who is described as “Adomni” which is translated as ruddy, red haired, or golden haired in Gensis 25:25. David, King of Israel is also described as “Adomni” in 1 Samuel 16:12 meaning he had red or golden color hair. Laban, who is the grandfather of Jacob’s children, has a name meaning “white” which in English is translated as “blond.” (1)
Joseph of the Old Testament married an Egyptian woman in Genesis 41:45 however Egyptians at this time, particularly the Egyptian elite, were fair skinned people. An examination of King Ramses II, a Biblical contemporary at the time, has showed that this Egyptian Pharo was a natural red head. In addition thousands of red and blond haired mummies have been found in Eygpt and the famous King Tut shares DNA with 50% of modern Western Europeans.
Since Jesus was also a descendant of the House of David, it is reasonable to assume he would have a similar coloring to David, just as you most likely have a similar coloring to your ancestors. In the Bible we are told that Jesus has white or red hair. Revelation 1: 13-16 describes his hair as white as snow, or another translation can read “burning in a furnace” which would indicate red, like a flame. Psalm 45: 2-3 tells us Jesus is”fairer than the children of men” indicating he was lighter than the general population.
According to Islamic accounts Jesus was a red head. The hadith is Muhammad’s account of an event known as the Night Journey. Supposedly Muhammad was taken up to heaven by the angel Gabriel (Jibra’il), where he saw Jesus as well as other people Muslims believe to be prophets. Most versions of this account tell us that “Jesus had curly hair and a reddish complexion.” Now I’m not one to believe that Muhammad actually had a vision of Jesus but the account in the Hadith could be based on historical accounts of Christ at the time and shows us at the least, that the common and most believable version of Christ, even to Muhammad, was a fair, red haired man.
Depictions of Christ as having fair or reddish hair are the most common place depiction of Jesus since the beginning of Christianity, and while highly critiqued by modern liberals and those who seek to revise history, they are most likely the most accurate.
So why are Jews in Israel today often, but not always, olive skinned with dark hair if so many original Jews from Christ’s time were fair completed? In the 7th century AD Israel was conquered by Arab Muslims. After the conquest, most of the population, including the Jews, became Arabized in both culture and language. Most in the area, including some Jews, adopted the religion of Islam. Jews were forbidden to build synagogues and most likely interbred to some extent with these darker skinned Arab peoples. Until the Crusades took Palestine in 1099, Muslim dynasties controlled all of Palestine.
As recent DNA studies have shown a distinct difference between Europeans and modern day Jews it is important to remember that most of the human family began in the Fertile Crescent and then spread out. Two thousand years ago we would have had more similarities than we do today because migration and isolation of certain groups for two thousand years have produced distinct genetic differences between us.
That’s not to say that ancient Jews are the same as say, the Vikings, no, not at all, but they were both most likely two different branches of the same Indo-European tree, one becoming Arab/Semetic and the other, the Euopeans, becoming what we know as the Western and Eastern Europeans of today.
Citations linked in the text. Citations not linked :
1. Mozeson [MOZESON, Isaac E. “The Word,” New York 1989] p.17 “Albino”.