TruthVid's 100 Proofs that the Israelites were White, Part 76: 99, Reverse cultural appropriation: Magi who came to see Christ Always White until 15th century; 100, Cultural appropriation: Ancient Ethiopian Church Art vs. Colonial Ethiopian Church Art

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TruthVid's 100 Proofs that the Israelites were White, Part 76

Last week we discussed the Parthian Empire and the Parthian interest and role in Judaea in the first century before Christ. What is more important to us, however, is the interest which Josephus had in the affairs of the Parthians, as he spent considerable time discussing them throughout his writings, and in many places makes statements supporting the fact that the Parthians were indeed a significant portion of those Israelites who had been taken into Assyrian captivity many centuries before. Presenting the statements made by Josephus in this regard, we also discussed the magi, and have hopefully demonstrated that the magi who came to Judaea in order to worship the Christ child were descendants of the ancient Levites who had gone into captivity, who remained priests, and who were ultimately known to the pagan world as magi. Now we shall discuss the magi as they were traditionally depicted in early Christian art, and how those depictions have been corrupted over time.

In our discussion last week, we may have spoken more about how well the various Hasmonean rulers, the high priests John Hyrcanus II and Antigonus, had been treated by the Parthians even if one of those men had employed them to help him supplant the other. On the surface, that may be attriubted to politics or political expediency, but that is not necessarily true. Rather than merely disposing of John Hyrcanus II, the high priest who had been deposed by Parthia and taken as a prisoner, the Parthian king Orodes II treated him kindly, supported him generously as he was held in Parthia, and released him to return to Jerusalem once his own son Pacorus was slain by the Romans. On the other hand, when Hyrcanus returned, Herod mistreated him and had him slain. We can only wonder whether Antigonus was ever able to warn his uncle about the danger of making deals with a devil.

But now that we have discussed the identity of both the Parthians and the magi, we are going to use a discussion of the historic representations of the magi in art and how those representations had changed over time as the basis for our next proof:

99) Reverse cultural appropriation: Magi who came to see Christ were always White until 15th century. Accommodation of the merchants.

The phenomenon we are going to describe here as “reverse cultural appropriation” is evidently at least 600 years old in Europe, and it is something which is indicative of the role of the merchants in the decay and decline of a society. Once this is evident, it may also become manifest why in the Bible, the term Mystery Babylon is used to describe the system of worldly whoredom operated by those same merchants.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Cultural appropriation takes place when members of a majority group adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way.” We don’t agree with that description, as it is tailored to suit minority groups. Rather, we would be more inclined to state that cultural appropriation takes place when members of a particular race or culture adopt cultural elements from another race or culture”, and that is a more balanced and authentic definition. According to Britannica, only Whites can practice cultural appropriation, however in the modern world it is absolutely clear that non-Whites have appropriated White society and culture for themselves, while Jews now claim that Whites have no culture. Whenever we see a negro in ballet or in a classical orchestra, that is a clear example of cultural appropriation.

But here we are using the term “reverse cultural appropriation” because throughout the Middle Ages, whenever one of the magi was depicted as a negro, it was a White man, or at least, a European, who had created the depiction. Therefore a White man, by artificially injecting non-Whites into White historical settings, is essentially portraying those non-Whites as having had a share in White cultural development, and that is why we use the term. The truth is that non-Whites do not deserve any credit for any role in the development of Christianity or European culture.

Over three years ago at Christogenea I published an article titled Who Painted the Wise Man Black? Who made the Magus a Negro? That article will supply some of the basis for this discussion. But when I wrote it, I really did not check any contemporary sources for what they had to say on the issue, as I generally do not care what the academics or media think about ancient history. I would much rather read it from the ancients themselves, who had better sense and were appropriately discriminating in their mode of thinking. But in reference to the magi, since I wrote that article I did come across one surprisingly candid statement. In a December, 2020 article at titled Here's What History Can Tell Us About the Magi we read the following:

Medieval art played a key role in how many current Christmas traditions visualize these men. The Magi as a multiracial set of three figurines, made sometime before 1489, reflects the increased trade between Europe and Africa during the Medieval Period more than anything that was happening when the Gospel of Matthew was written, according to the art historians at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paintings by artists like Botticelli, Peter Paul Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch helped cement the image of the Magi as a diverse group of men in popular imagination.

I am wondering if whoever had written that did not see my own article first, since the content I presented is identical to what they had sought to describe in different terms. But that is not necessarily so, because the candid admission concerning trade with Africa was made much earlier, and in my article I provided an example from the Walters Art Museum.

Now, before discussing depictions of the magi from the later Classical artists of Medieval Europe, we shall discuss a significant early example which I have found in Byzantine art. So while there may be even older representations of which I am still unaware, I have recently learned that one of the earliest pieces of art depicting the magi of the Gospel account is from a mosaic discovered in a restored Byzantine church which dates to about 565 AD, the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo, in Ravenna, Italy. This is the period immediately after the time when Justinian had conquered the Goths and Vandals in Italy, parts of Iberia and North Africa and returned the subjected provinces to Byzantine Roman rule.

Above: Section of mosaic from the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo, in Ravenna, Italy. Click image for a photo of the full mosaic.

This mosaic pictures the three magi as White men dressed in trousers and enclosed shoes, a long shirt sort of like a tunic, and a cape. The clothing is very colorful and variously patterned. Each of the magi is wearing a sort of pointed cap called a Phrygian cap by the early Greek writers. The names of each of the three magi, as they were assigned in later Church mythology, are inscribed at the top of the mosaic. This is the most historically accurate portrayal of the magi which I have found to date. In Classical Greek art, Phrygians as well as Medes, Scythians, Thracians and men of other eastern and northern nations are depicted as wearing the so-called Phrygian cap. Phrygian caps began to appear on Greek sculptures of ancient Phrygians in the 4th century BC. By then, as a distinct nation Phrygia was gone, but by then many Scythians dwelt in Phrygia, and the caps fit the descriptions given by Herodotus and others of the caps of the Scythians. Greek representations of Thracians also had such caps, but Scythians also dwelt there in large numbers.

However the colorful garments of the magi in the mosaic clearly seem to identify them as Medes, even if they were more likely, in our opinion, Israelites living among the Medes. For that I will read a portion of Xenophon’s Cyropaedia (or Education of Cyrus), written in the early 4th century BC, from Book 8, chapter 3, paragraph 3 of the Loeb Classical Library edition, edited by Walter Miller:

3. Next we shall describe how Cyrus for the first time drove forth in state from his palace; and that is in place here, for the magnificence of his appearance in state seems to us to have been one of the arts that he devised to make his government command respect. Accordingly, before he started out, he called to him those of the Persians and of the allies who held office, and distributed Median robes among them (and this was the first time that the Persians put on the Median robe); and as he distributed them he said that he wished to proceed in state to the sanctuaries that had been selected for the gods, and to offer sacrifice there with his friends. “Come, therefore, to court before sunrise, dressed in these robes,” said he, “and form in line as Pheraulas, the Persian, shall direct in my name; and when I lead the way, follow me in the order assigned to you. But if any one of you thinks that some other way would be better than that in which we shall now proceed, let him inform me as soon as we return, for everything must be arranged as you think best and most becoming.” And when he had distributed among the noblest the most beautiful garments, he brought out other Median robes, for he had had a great many made, with no stint of purple or sable or red or scarlet or crimson cloaks. He apportioned to each one of his officers his proper share of them, and he bade them adorn their friends with them, “just as I,” said he, “have been adorning you.”

So the Byzantines of the 6th century accurately portrayed the magi as White men, and dressed them in clothing which the true magi, the priestly tribe of the Parthian empire at the time of Christ, had most likely worn according to the customs of the Persians and the Medes. But in later Medieval depictions the Phrygian caps were replaced with royal crowns, and their dress will become more European, or more often, more like how such Europeans had typically imagined first century Judaeans and others from the east to have been dressed.

In that same mosaic, the magi are depicted as approaching a throne-like seat surrounded by four White angels and a White virgin Mary with the White Christ child seated on her lap. In all of the earliest Christian art from any of the nations of the larger society, Christ, the apostles, the magi, and all of the other related figures are always depicted as being White. But as we hope to show here, it is the tendancy of certain men to want to include other races in our culture and society, and usually it is for the sake of commerce.

See some typical early-medieval Byzantine church art at the museum website of the Church of Chora in Istanbul, or at another Istanbul hobbyist site.

For the notes in this section of the discussion, please refer to Who Painted the Wise Man Black? Who made the Magus a Negro? at Christogenea.

Having seen that the magi were originally always portrayed as having been White, which is historically acccurate, now we shall see an occurrence of cultural appropriation, as modern Ethiopians are black, but the Ethiopians were not always black.

100) Cultural appropriation: ancient Ethiopian church art vs. colonial Ethiopian church art

Among the artwork found in the most ancient Ethiopian churches is Maryam Quiat, a church which contains ancient murals that depict Christ and His apostles as being White, although some may be perceived as having a somewhat Arabic appearance. That may be expected for 6th or 7th century church in Ethiopia. This and other early churches in Ethiopia were built into the sides of high mountains or in other places which are very difficult to reach. We may conjecture that evidently their builders may have sought to protect themselves from muslims. But that also helped to preserve them so that we can still see the artwork which they contained.

Stone relief from rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
A stone relief of a man with Caucasian features from the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia. © Aezana Yohannes from the UNESCO World Heritage website.

Other later Ethiopian churches, presumably of the 11th to 13th centuries, were not actually built but were hewn out of rock. Many of them are below-ground, as pits and channels were carved out of the rock around massive blocks from out of which churches were carved and hollowed. There are nearly a dozen of these in Lalibela in northern Ethiopia. Images of them may be viewed at the website for the UNESCO World Heritage website.

One such church has a window carved in the shape of a swastika. Another portrays artwork of Christ and the apostles which are clearly light-skinned, White or perhaps arabic, but certainly not negros. The few people represented in reliefs are clearly White, having White features. But all of the later Ethiopian churches, such as the Debre Berhan Selassie Church in Gondar, northern Ethiopia, have artwork depicting Christ and the entire trinity as being negros. These churches were mostly built after the beginning of the colonial period, and with the assistance of Jesuit missionaries.

Paintings from rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
Paintings of a Christ and other New Testament figures as White or Caucasian people from the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia. © Aezana Yohannes from the UNESCO World Heritage website.

If the earliest Ethiopian church art depicts Whites and some arab types, and only much later are any of the Christian saints depicted as having been black, that is evidence of cultural appropriation which crept in incrementally, when with European assistance Ethiopians were once again able to build new churches and as the nation had gotten blacker and blacker over the intervening centuries. But while it does not necessarily prove beyond doubt that Christ and the apostles were White, as the earliest Ethiopian art we have is from the 6th century and some types represented may be considered to be arabs, it certainly proves beyond doubt that Christ and the apostles were not black, as they were not even portrayed as blacks in ancient Ethiopia.

Then there are the Garima Gospels, two of what are believed to be the earliest surviving complete illuminated Christian manuscripts, and which are esteemed to date from the late 4th to the mid 7th centuries. Another illuminated gospel believed to date to the 14th or 15th century belongs to Ethiopia’s so-called Amhara people [screenshot], and while they themselves are now quite black, all of the figures illustrated in that gospel are clearly White.

The Israelites were White, but if the race-mixing trends continue, nobody would ever believe it.


Below: The apostles Luke and Mark as they are depicted in the Garima Gospels.


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