Asian Jesus? Exploring Our Cultural Assumptions About Jesus Through Artwork

Throughout the millennia, Jesus has been portrayed by artists across every conceivable medium. Some of these depictions of Jesus have sought to prioritize historical accuracy, while others have focused on conveying theological significance through artistic expression.

Depending on the culture of the artist, depictions of Jesus have varied greatly. Nevertheless, for American evangelicals and other western Christians, the standard for how we think of Jesus’ appearance has been set by artists who portrayed him as a western European.

That hasn’t been the case for everyone in the global church.

In a recent photo essay published in Christianity Today, Victoria Emily Jones explored the ways in which Jesus’ birth has been portrayed throughout the centuries in Asian cultures, providing insight into the unique ways in which depictions of Jesus have indigenized to those cultures.

The article was met with stanch criticism, with a number of Christian leaders decrying CT as “woke” and “liberal.”

In this episode, we take a closer look at the article and explore why it caused such backlash. We also discuss artistic depictions of Jesus more generally. For example, is it okay that they are culturally defined? To what measure are we conscious or unconscious of the fact that our culture is defining our depictions of Jesus? And how much historical accuracy do we need in order to understand who Jesus is in a way that is theologically cogent?

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