December 27, 2013
By Saeed Qureshi
Last week there was an interesting and animating discussion on the CNN whether Jesus was white or not. That gave me an impetus that if the Jesus’ followers who believe in him as the Son of God and promised Messiah can discuss this delicate subject, let me too offer my point of view.
To claim or believe that Jesus of Nazareth had a white pigment is factually and fundamentally untrue. Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod. According to Saint Luke, one of the gospel writers, Joseph the future adoptive father of Jesus went up from Galilee out of the city Nazareth into Judea. Joseph was engaged with the mother of Jesus Mary and would visit here from time to time.
But to believe that Jesus was a white person born in a frigid or cold climate or region is totally devoid of truth. The land of Palestine including Jerusalem, the Galilee, the Judea, the Bethlehem have Mediterranean climate which is warm or moderate than being cold most of the year. So the portrayal of Jesus born in snow clad climate is factually incorrect. The birth date of Jesus being December 25 is as controversial and obscure as several other events related to his life. Some writers projected his birth in the month of June which is hot and humid. He was also a Jew and at the same time ethnically an Arab for having been born in the Middle East.
The people living in the Middle East and even in the upper reaches of the Arabian Peninsula touching peripheral towns along the Mediterranean coast have fair to brown skin. As such for the Christian believers it is sheer passion or fantasy that they try to paint the life of Jesus as if he was born in the winter and in extremely cold part of the year which could be only in Europe or North America.
The display of sleighs descending from the heaven with Santa and the with flakes of heavy snow falling around carries the depiction of regions closer to the North pole or at best of these areas that are covered with snow during the winter. Then the roaming of the deer and antelopes in woods with pine trees in a sort of blissful aura all around, is entirely romantic and far from reality. It demonstrates a kind of propensity to show Jesus as the dweller of the cold region and that his birth took place in the snowy and freezing part of the year.
At the age of 30 Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in the river Jordan to be formally proclaimed as a Jew. His preaching or ministry lasted for three years from his age of 30 CE to 33CE. In 33 CE he was sentenced to death by a Roman governor Pontius Pilate, against trumped charges of blasphemy, calling him the Son of God and not paying taxes, leveled against him by Jewish priests and Pharisees.
Jesus is a redeemer, Messiah and anointed son of God for Christians, He is a promised Messiah also for Muslims and a prophet but not son of God. Muslims venerate him specially for being the prophet with a book (bible) with three other prophets namely Moses, David, and Muhammad. However for Jews he was an apostate, a blasphemer to the Jewish religion and not the real promised Messiah.
All the dates from the birth of Jesus Christ to his hanging at the stake on the order of the Roman governor Pilate, his entombment for three days and his ascension and reappearance all lack credibility and factuality. The reason for fallacious dates and not credible chronology is understandable as there were no foolproof methods during those primitive times for recording events in with authenticity. Especially the gospels or four accounts of New Testament or Greek bible were written by their respective authors many years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The journeying of his mother and his perceived father Joseph to Bethlehem was out of fear due to severe penalty from the fanatic Jews, Pharisees or rabbis who would take the birth of a child from a virgin mother, only betrothed to a man but still not married as sin. According to the New Testament, Mary was found to be pregnant, although she had not lived with Joseph, to whom she was engaged and that he did not have marital relations with her before the child was born. According to the Jewish tradition of those times, the girls were betrothed around the age of twelve or twelve and a half.
During the betrothal period, which would last about a year, the marriage was not finalized and the bride remained in her parent's house. Perhaps it was during this period that the pregnancy took place which we learn from gospels that it was due to the divine design through the Holy Spirit. But this contention is subject to contest as pointed out by Stephen L Harris, who proposed that the accounts of Matthew and Luke were written to answer Jewish slanders about Jesus' illegitimate birth. St Paul a prominent protagonist of Jesus and successor of Paul was also silent on the virginity as implying that he knew of no account of the virgin birth of Jesus.
It can be argued that a young woman who was still not properly married and was not religiously authorized to have sexual relations with her betrothed husband could have no other reason except to interpret the birth of Jesus as miraculous and through the Holy Spirit. It could be the only plausible way to deflect the fierce and unforgiving reaction and corresponding punishment from the Jewish religious authorities. In those rigid religious Jewish codes, the only explanation that could be offered was that the child was conceived in the womb of the mother by God through the Holy Spirit.
That answer or explanation might have pacified the Jewish priests and they kept silent almost for 30 years. But the people around Jesus and his parents must be having apprehensions and rather the family might have remained under a stigma attached with the premarital birth of Jesus. Yet for all these 30 years we do not read any account or story that pertains to the shame or ignominy associated with such grave social digression till Jesus started his ministry and publicly declared him as the Son of God.
It was only after Jesus began challenging the Jewish social misconduct, religious traditions and deviation from Torah that the Jewish religious zealots turned against him. It was at a much later stage that the question of Jesus being born Son of God was trumped up. But the history is silent on this highly sensitive issue as the Jewish rabbis took a stand against Jesus not for being an illegitimate child but for other two reasons. One was that he called himself a king and refused to pay taxes. The second charge was that he was calling himself the son of God.
Quite some time after the birth of Jesus, Joseph along with his wife Mary and son (later Jesus) flees to Egypt where he stays till the death of Herod. Thereafter, he returns to Nazareth where the family settles down. It was perhaps their absence from Nazareth and Jerusalem for a long time that we don’t find any detailed mention about the family.
The Greek scripture or the New Testament that is the story of the Jesus Christ and formation of Christianity was not written during the life time of Jesus but in later periods by many writers including the four early apostles, namely Matthew, Luke, John and Mark. But these gospels differ in many ways in contents and chronology from each other. The time difference between Mark the first writer and John the last of the four main writers, is between 50 to 70 years. The later writers copied heavily from Mark by adding some more details of the subsequent times.