The Black Jesus, the Mestizo Jesus, and the Historical Jesus

In: Biblical Interpretation
Wongi Park Belmont University, USA

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This paper identifies a modern racial ideology prevalent not only in U.S. society and culture at large, but also one to which historical Jesus studies is susceptible: the ideology of white invisibility. In fact, so pervasive is this ideology that it can be detected even in the most constructive efforts to diversify contemporary biblical scholarship. My point of departure for this critique is an important essay published in Biblical Interpretation by Jeffrey Siker: “Historicizing a Racialized Jesus: Case Studies in the ‘Black Christ,’ the ‘Mestizo Christ,’ and White Critique” (2007). My aim is to show how the logic of white invisibility functions implicitly in the locations and relations of the four Jesuses invoked by Siker’s essay – namely, the black, mestizo, white, and historical Jesuses. Although I am critical of Siker’s analysis, my ultimate aim, like his, is to move the conversation forward in a constructive manner. Indeed, I have chosen to engage his essay because I believe it is a valuable contribution that helpfully frames the thorny problematic of competing representations of the white, black, brown, red, and yellow Jesuses. Iden­tifying the strengths and limitations of Siker’s analysis, then, not only renders visible the ideology of white invisibility, but also points to ways of moving beyond the impasse of competing representations.

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