The Image of Christ this Christmas

It’s not unusual to see nativity scenes this time of year. They’re often lovely scenes, complete with robed figures nestled among sheep, donkeys, and cows on beds of straw. But one thing frequently amiss in these scenes involves the portrayal of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and other characters. Nativity scenes frequently depict ethnically incorrect details of Christ’s birth—blonde, blue-eyed characters in Middle Eastern robes.

This practice dates back centuries to Renaissance artists and the Byzantine Empire, a time when art was booming and Christianity was slowly on the rise. When these European artists decided to depict Christ, they likely painted renditions of faces they knew well—European ones! But Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and most other biblical characters were not European and would not have looked European…

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