This week my introductory Scriptures course reached the New Testament. After a brief intro to the NT and then a more thorough discussion of the Synoptic Problem, I paused to ask them a question: “who is Jesus?” I solicited any adjective that came to their mind, especially dealing with Jesus’ appearance. I received what I expected.
Bearded. Long hair. Blue eyes. Handsome. Strong. White.
I then went through a variety of stereotypical images of just such a type of Jesus:
I then offered them some alternative images of Jesus:
And thanks to Julia O’Brien, we even looked at a “ripped Jesus”:
And after reflecting upon these images for a while, I put up the ‘well-known’ reconstruction of a first-century Palestinian male from Popular Mechanics in 2002 . . . the ‘face’ of Jesus:
The response was fascinating. After the initial shock, I asked students for their reflections. I then concluded class by saying the following: “I want to press you all to read the gospels, the New Testament, as though it is talking about this guy (gesturing to the final picture above) rather than about this guy (gesturing to white Jesus).” It was a great exercise and really pressed them to think about the gospels, as much as is possible, as first-century Jews, not 21st century Christians.
What are your reactions to this approach? To these images?