Archive for Saturday, June 30, 2007

Faith forum: Are visual depictions of Jesus inaccurate?

June 30, 2007


Vision of Christ unique to one's faith

The Rev. Joanna Harader, pastor, Peace Mennonite Church, 615 Lincoln St.:

As a teenager, I went to see "Jesus Christ Superstar." Milling around the stage before the performance was the classic Jesus figure: flowing brown hair, full beard. So I was not expecting the man with short blond hair who walked onstage representing the son of God.

Of course, I had not yet seen Salvador Dali's "Sacrament of the Last Supper" with the beautiful blond Jesus. Nor had I seen Chinese or African or Aboriginal images of Jesus. And I most certainly had not seen the images in the recently released "Art that Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More."

I would argue that, like literary depictions, visual depictions of Jesus are more theology than history. So are they inaccurate? Are they misleading? Well, that depends on the image. And on your theology.

Mine is an incarnational theology. I believe that Jesus is God become flesh. God entering our humanity in order to make possible the fullness of human-divine relationship. If the purpose of the incarnation is to allow us to relate to God on an intimate level, then art that reincarnates Christ for different cultures in different times is vital.

I am told by Barbara Yoder, a church member and art historian, that Rembrandt, who had Mennonite associations, painted many depictions of Christ. His earliest work presents a Jesus who is glowing, otherworldly. In his later work, you can scarcely discern the Christ figure from the crowds of people surrounding him.

In some ways, the most theologically accurate depictions of Christ are the ones where he (or she) is most like us - the art that lets us know we are not God-forsaken people, but God-surrounded people.

- Send e-mail to Joanna Harader at

Images stir memories of Savior's love for us

The Rev. Alan Estby, associate and campus pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church, 2104 Bob Billings Parkway:

We have no portrait or picture of Jesus taken when he physically lived on planet Earth.

We do have a portrait of Jesus given in Isaiah 53:2-5: "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. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed."

I have a visual depiction in the form of a picture of my wife, children and grandchildren in my office. Seeing the pictures have no value until my heart, mind and soul remember all of the love I have received from them.

Visual depictions of Jesus are only valuable when our heart, mind and soul remember the love we have received from our God through his son, Jesus. This picture of Jesus tells us the truth about our God and his love for the salvation of all people.

- Send e-mail to Alan Estby at


Ragingbear 10 years, 6 months ago

If you look at the area, and you look at the people, and look at everything else, this "Jesus" that people worship would probably be somebody that you would be tempted to complain about if he got on your airplane flight.

He was olive skinned. Which is another way for saying that if his skin was any darker that it would be pitch black. His hair is probably like most others from that area, a dark hair that is somewhat bushy. His nose was probably large (compared to European/Caucasian standards) and had the Aquiline or hooked nose that is common of the Middle Eastern races. It really aggravates me whenever we see pictures of what some call "Aryan Jesus" in which he is blond, or a red-headed white man with Anglo-Saxon features. That is completely asinine. If he was some sort of freak like that, you would think that in all those stories about him there would be some mention of "Yeah, and he looked like a freak".

By the way, if you actually know how things worked in history, you will see that Jesus is a title. It roughly translates into "The Messiah". and was not this guy's real name. This is just like how Buddha was not his real name. Jesus's true name was Yeshua(Joshua) Bar-Yoseph(Joseph). Which basically says that his name is Joshua, son of Joseph. In our standards, it would be roughly penned as Joshua Josephson.

pz5g1 10 years, 6 months ago

No. Christ was a title. Jesus was a very common Jewish name of the time.

Speakout 10 years, 6 months ago

As long as everyone want to pray to a diety, they will make him/her in the likeness of one they want to worship. God tells us in the 10 commandments not to make graven images, yet we do. Catholics and others have statues with proportional attributes and then there is that almost photo like image I see in so many protestant churches.

Lets pray to God and be happy He gave us what He did. We don't need images or other graven images to make us faithful, do we?

Ragingbear 10 years, 6 months ago

PZ, your just making up things.

Christ, from the root word of "Cristos" meaning messiah in Greek is one part of the title. Jesus was not a common name. I would suggest you look it up instead of just prattling off whatever your preacher tried to tell you.

Bubarubu 10 years, 6 months ago

Marion opines: "Or spin as the case may be; I don't remember anything in the BIble which suggests that Holy Jesus Christ! was a woman!

There is NO end to the idiotic lengths to which the fundies will go to lure you in!"

Note first, that Rev. Harder said "theologically" accurate, not representationally so. Note second that you just called the Peace Mennonite church "fundies". Seriously? I mean, really? The real "fundies" are more likely to hew closely to a Caucasian depiction of Jesus, reject women's full participation in the church, and think the King James Bible directly quotes the English words from Jesus' mouth. Until Ragingbear says that Jesus is a title, that comment is right on.

DaveR 10 years, 6 months ago

I'm surprised no one mentioned the Shroud of Turin. Since we don't know of any way the image could have been placed on the cloth, and as it has traditionally been known as the burial shroud of Jesus (which means that he or someone in his circle was fairly well off, it's a lot of cloth in a single piece), it is reasonable to conclude that it is, indeed, the image of the face of Jesus that has been preserved.

geekin_topekan 10 years, 6 months ago

Our Lord and savior Christ Jesus was an Iranian who,like our very own Kokapelli was a ladiesman who hung out with mostly prostitutes.Not to patronize them but more as a comfort and safe figure who with a little help may help them change their lives for the better.but for now,they were welcome to seek peace and quite from an otherwise insane daily life. Not unlike yours truly.Please don't call me your Christ and savior however.A simple donation will take you far though.

RKLOG 10 years, 6 months ago

It's just a children's story that got out of hand.

Tom McCune 10 years, 6 months ago

Ragingbear is right. "Jesus" is an English-ification of a Latin-ification of a Greek-ification of Yeshua (Joshua).

Ragingbear 10 years, 6 months ago

Yeehaw! Two people agree with me! ~~Does happy Naked Dance~~

camper 10 years, 6 months ago

Ragingbear. I often agree with you too. In fact, almost all posts have truth...but because most issues have so many variables it can be impossible to determine who's opinion is most correct. That is what makes this message board good. I'm wrong many times so I like to see what everyone else's thoughts are.

Ragingbear 10 years, 6 months ago

Yeah. But you missed the point that I am right. Kneel before me foolish mortals! Bask in my glory of being right!

paladin 10 years, 6 months ago

Absolutely not. I have it on good authority that he looks like a cross between Alfred E. Newman and George W. Bush, with a slight resemblance to Howdy Doody.

Crossfire 10 years, 6 months ago

Last time I seen him he was sitting right here Puttin' gas in the mower, sippin' a Dos Equis beer. Come a tie my Jesus to a tree, to a tree. Tie my Jesus to a tree.

Mike Blur 10 years, 6 months ago

"pz5g1 (Anonymous) says:

No. Christ was a title. Jesus was a very common Jewish name of the time."

It's also, currently, a common name for newborn babies in the states of Texas and Arizona.

Of course, they pronounce Jesus just a bit differently down there.

Ragingbear 10 years, 6 months ago

What about the title of "Son of Man"? Pretty sure that was God's way of telling him "You know, Mary went and did it with some guy, then blamed the pregnancy on me.".

jonas 10 years, 6 months ago

Nope, not as innacurate as the depictions of his ancestry.

Just thought I'd stir the pot a little.

oldgoof 10 years, 6 months ago

I think she had a mole on her left cheek.

Ragingbear 10 years, 6 months ago

Yeah. It's interesting that that although they repeatedly state that Joseph was not the father in any way. Then they go on to recite his lineage, which held a much stronger importance in that day than it means today.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 6 months ago

I grew up with a backlit reverse print on glass that I now call "Jesus as a Victorian English gentleman."

Joanna has a good point: Representations of Jesus are inherently iconographic, and therefore it is what the viewer brings to the image that is most important, not the image its self.

The most appropriate image of Jesus (if you must have one) is the one which most closely represents your vision of him, to help you further your relationship with deity.

Physically, I'm sure Jesus (or Yeshua, as Marion would prefer) would have more closely resembled a (male) Yemeni jew than an English gentleman.

Crossfire 10 years, 6 months ago

The "h" is just a reminder of the Spanish pronunciation. There is a fence going up in the southwest to keep him out of here.

paladin 10 years, 6 months ago

I have it on other good authority that Jesus looked, acted, and talked exactly like Flavor Flav on "Flavor of Love".

Mike Blur 10 years, 6 months ago

Rightstinker, this had been address by Cecil Adams years ago.

If you don't know Cecil, he researches all questions like yours. Hours of good reading.

yourworstnightmare 10 years, 6 months ago


The H stands for "haploid". He was, after all, from a virgin birth and received no set of chromosomes from a man. Look it up. Learn something.

purplesage 10 years, 6 months ago

Jesus, James, Jude all have the same root; it was a common name. God is not a sexual being; that Jesus appeared as a man is a concession of incarnation. The reality is that no woman could have been a rabbi in that generation.

The faithful, from every race,tribe,tongue and nation, have artistically represented Jesus as themselves. To see the amazing variety of that, visit Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City. They display an extensive collection of nativities from all around the world. People see Jesus as themselves because He became one of us.

RKLOG 10 years, 6 months ago

Can we somehow make this Jesus nonsense go away?

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