Why I think that those who criticize Christian artistic tradition for always presenting Christ as a northern European are wrong.
I have read a number of articles over the years that criticize the traditional representation of Christ as being historically inaccurate and exemplifying historical northern European cultural bias. Twice I recently I have heard this discussion sparked off by the discovery of human remains in the Holy Land which date from the time of Christ, These have allowed scientists to create an image of the person from whom the bones came. The figure that is recreated is, surprise, surprise olive-skinned and semitic and so this indicates, so the logic goes, what Christ would probably have looked like. This being so, it demonstrates, so it is claimed, how narrow minded Europeans are, and how culturally narrow Christianity is for portraying Christ as a white, Caucasian. In short, it would be said, Christ didn’t look like this painting by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, as the Church has always maintained: He looked instead more like this scientific reconstruction of a man developed from a skull discovered in the Holy Land..(according the this article, here): Here is my reaction: first, if ever there was a concocted news piece this was one – does it really need the discovery of a skull as evidence for the suggestion to be made that a Jew living in the Middle East about 2,000 years ago might have been dark skinned and semitic? I think nearly every Christian today would at least ackowledge the possibility and it wouldn’t need the discovery of a skull to convince them. Second, I think that the argument reveals a narrow understanding of the Christian artistic tradition and a lack of appreciation of just how universally inclusive its. I will acknowledge that there is a tradition of artists who present Christ as their own race, or the race of those for whom the painting is intended. The idea is to encourage people to believe that Christ is a person with whom they can relate to at a personal level. This is natural. So Sir Anthony Van Dyck, who was northern European and who spent most of his professional life working in England might very well naturally paint Christ as a northern European. But why shouldn’t he? I feel that it is as reasonable for a European to paint Christ as (Read More)