Friday, October 30, 2015

Was Jesus Black?

(MODERN) NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: “Jesus Was Black” Reveals Newly Found Manuscript. This ridiculous story has been kicking around for a while (WorldNet Daily picked it up during the summer). I had hoped it would fizzle out, but it is still getting attention, so I suppose I should comment on it. I'm pretty sure I have also seen it refuted on Facebook somewhere, but another time won't hurt.
Archeologists from the University of Tel Aviv have found several ancient scrolls in the West Bank, close to the Qumran Caves. The caves are located 2 kilometers inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Interestingly, this is the same region where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947.

The newly discovered scrolls have revealed tantalizing information on the physical appearance and life of Jesus Christ.

It’s believed that these documents were written by the Essenes, a small Jewish sectarian group. Many elements of the Old and New Testaments have been retraced here, similar to the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, what have interested the scholars particularly are some fragments where the birth of Jesus has been described.
There has been no recent report of new manuscript discoveries anywhere in the vicinity of the Qumran caves, and I certainly would have heard if there had been. None of the Dead Sea Scrolls mention early Christianity or Jesus. It has been argued that a few very fragmentary Greek manuscripts found at Qumran contained New Testament texts, but the manuscripts are so very fragmentary that one could find just about what one wanted in them with judicious reconstruction and these arguments have never found any significant support among scholars.
Professor Hans Schummer reveals that the manuscripts describe Jesus as having a darker color of skin than her parents. One part of the scripture reads, “The infant was the color of the night”. Another section reads, “In the dark of the night, nothing could be seen of the infant except the white of his eyes”. The professor says that this is certainly “revealing” information. If the information is true, then Jesus could be of African descent.
I can find no mention of a scholar named Hans Schummer at Tel Aviv University or anywhere else. The name comes up in Google only in connection with this story. The accompanying photo of a scholarly-looking man looking in a scholarly manner at a glass-enclosed manuscript is taken from a New York Times article from October 2014: Where Mud Is Archaeological Gold, Russian History Grew on Trees. The original caption to the photo reads "Pyotr G. Gaidukov, the deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Archaeology, with newly found birch scripts."
There is also reference to a servant of African origin named Melcha.

Hebrew scholar Moshe Zuckenschtein says Joseph had 4 sisters and 5 brothers. It is also said that a child was born of the union of Jacob and his servant after his second wife had died.
The name "Melcha" is apparently found in the New Testament apocryphal tradition as one version of the name of Joseph's first wife. I have checked around a little but so far have not found any further specifics.

There is no "Hebrew scholar" named "Moshe Zuckenschtein." The name "Zuckenschtein" does not even look like a real name, it looks like a misremembering of "Zuckerstein."

As for the thesis of the article, although Jesus wasn't the lily-white, blue-eyed blond of many devotional pictures, he wasn't of African descent either. He was a Galilean Jew and his skin color would presumably have been darker than European Caucasians but lighter than black Africans.

The most interesting thing about this bogus story is that it shows that New Testament apocrypha are still being produced and avidly consumed even in the twenty-first century.