Depictions of Jesus Christ vary widely across different Christian cultures. Some still show Jesus as the brown-haired, blue-eyed image that most closely represents their own culture, while others argue that Christ has a much more Arabian complexion. Some even argue that Jesus was black.
Yet despite the large spectrum of colors that Christ has occupied in his iconography over the years, there’s one that has been particularly absent even in the largely Indo-European way Jesus is often rendered. That was the something the British Churches Conservation Fund sought to correct on Sunday’s National Ginger Awareness Day.
Just before the red-head holiday, the group released a photo of a stained-glass representation of Jesus with flowing strawberry blonde hair that appears in Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland, a small town in northern England. Though that’s not to say it’s definitive proof of Christ’s origins. According to The Mirror, it’s the only ginger Jesus that has been found anywhere in the United Kingdom.
The red-haired Christ has been a part of the church’s structure for more than 150 years. It was first designed by noted stained-glass artist William Wailes in 1857, who recreated Jesus’ likeness in churches around the country scores of times. This particular rendering of Christ, for some reason, seems to have come out differently, though it is unknown whether Wailes made a conscious decision to portray Jesus as a ginger — or if there was simply an error somewhere in his artistic process.
While the likelihood that Christ had red hair is statistically low, there is a slight possibility that this stained-glass depiction may hold some truth to it. After all, Jesus is popularly believed to be of Jewish origins, and there are still red-headed Jews to this day. In antiquity and medieval Europe, there may have been an even stronger association between the Jewish people and the typical ginger complexion. Esau, King David, Shylock and Judas are all often depicted with red hair, which stands out considering the Middle Eastern origins of the Jewish people, according to Ernest Abel, author of Jewish Genetic Diseases: A Layman’s Guide.
“There’s a higher percentage of Jews with red hair than you might expect from the fact that they came from the Middle East and most people in the Middle East have dark hair.”
If Jesus Christ did turn out to have red hair after all, he would be among an estimated 1 to 2 percent of the modern day population to carry the genetic mutation.
[Images via Holy Trinity Church and De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images]