A BBC World Service radio program aired a show in the runup to Christmas titled “Black Jesus,” in which presenter Robert Beckford made the anachronistic claim that Jesus was a “Palestinian,” even though that term came into use a century later.
Throughout the show, Beckford repeatedly referred to Jesus as a “first-century Palestinian Jew.” As noted by monitoring group the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), which first broke the story, the term “Palestinian” came into common more than a hundred years after Jesus’ crucifixion in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire.
Beckford was highlighting Jesus’ purported “Palestinianism” to show that he was a person of color, and not, as traditional depictions of him contend, a white-skinned, blonde-haired European.
“The identity and color of Jesus – and why it matters – has taken on a new significance in this year of protest and change. Seeing Jesus as a darker skinned Palestinian rather than blonde European is both historically accurate and theologically important, but it’s not a new idea,” Beckford said.
“Despite the fact it’s more realistic as a first-century Palestinian Jew that Jesus was dark skinned, somehow the white Jesus has become the most popular and accepted image,” he said.
CAMERA also criticized the New York Times for a 2008 article claiming that Jesus “spoke in Palestine.”
Another New York Times article that ran earlier this year also referenced “first-century Palestine.”
[D]uring the time of Jesus, Bethlehem and Jerusalem were in what was commonly called Judea and Nazareth [which were] in what was commonly called the Galilee. The land where Jesus lived did not take on the name Palestine until the second century, well after his death. Thus, the notion of “first-century Palestine”… is totally fictional.
In 132 CE, approximately 100 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, the Jews fought against Roman rule for a second time in what is known as the Bar Kokhba Revolt,” the report continued. “After the Romans defeated the rebellious Jews in 135, they renamed the land of the Jews Palestina to punish the Jews and to make an example of them to other peoples considering rebellion. The Romans took away the Jewish name, Judea, and replaced it with the name of an ancient enemy the Jews despised. The Philistines were an extinct Aegean people whom the Jews had historically loathed as uncultured and barbaric.
References to Jesus as “Palestinian” were also made on the December 13 edition of BBC Radio Scotland’s “Sunday Morning.”
“People can say ‘oh, because he’s Palestinian so he obviously couldn’t be black,” the show’s presenter said.
He also failed to mention Jesus’ Jewishness.