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For over two millennia artists have been depicting biblical characters in sculptures, paintings, and on film. While many of the images we’ve seen have shown God, and especially Jesus, as blonde-haired and blue-eyed, this image could not be further from the truth.

While the people in Bible hailed from Africa and the Middle East, they are often presented as decidedly pale. But photographer James C. Lewis hopes to change things.

Lewis, of Noire3000 | N3K Photo Studios in Atlanta, says he was sick of seeing biblical heroes “whitewashed.”

“I think it is very important to see one’s self in the Scripture so that it may become real in their eyes,” he told The Huffington Post. “The whitewashing of the Bible has always bothered me. However I’m happy to now have the opportunity to give a different point of view.”

Lewis’ latest series, dubbed Icons of the Bible, reimagines biblical greats using over 70 models who identify as Asian, Native American, Hispanic, African, Middle Eastern, Black American and West Indian.

“I wish to exhibit a splash of color onto the biblical pages of history with my creative embellishments,” Lewis explained. “By doing so I hope to open the minds and eyes of the ignorant and create open conversations of how we can learn to see the world through colorful lenses. After all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is intended for everyone.”

Icons of the Bible will be on display in November 2014 to February 2015 in Atlanta, GA. Visit Lewis’ website for more details.

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  • Me

    i feel the same way about tis that i do all those jesus status w/his six pack. why are so many religious symbols based on the flesh?

  • Guest

    I would have liked it more if is was a little more realistic, the people of the Bible features are described as non-caucasian as we already know but of features of a African and also Arab liking. So I think they should have also added men with Arab features into the mix too because this is kinda biases. It would be such a stronger piece.

  • erzulidivine

    Oh my I am shocked by the level of historical inaccuracy spewed on this page. North Africa (where much of the Bible is set–remember Israel was part of Africa until the Suez canal separated it from the mainland of Africa) is in Africa–the current people you consider “Middle Eastern” are actually invaders and settlers from the 2nd and 3rd century. So if you do a quick Google search of folks indigenous to the area you will get images of the Berbers who are darker than most of us with very “Nubian” features. “Arab”/Hyksos invasion of India and North Africa is well known and can be found in any high school textbook. Much like America, if you look at us now, the folks here for the last 400 yrs do not reflect the native population.

    • Doris D

      It is the human condition to erase history and plop yourself into it whether true or not. They ain’t all look like Morris Chestnut ok? Cleopatra by the way was Greek. Ugly Greek woman too. She did not look like Liz Taylor but did not look like Cicely Tyson either. That area of the world was invaded but there was a lot of mixing going on at that time so that the northern Africans were lighter. They ain’t look like the rest of us who came through the Middle Passage and that is ok. Why we all want to look like the lighter Egyptians? What is wrong with looking like the tribes we actually came from? The darker tribes?

    • BishPlease

      Cleopatra’s mother was African, native darkskinned, woolly haired Egyptian. The Greeks themselves described them all, including hebrews as what we now consider sub-saharan African. Seriously, everyone do some research. Do not accept that things are as they have always been. Those people were 100% African, no admixture. Why are you tripping? Do some research and stop letting people steal your history and make one up for you! This is cray. Everyone should be aware that these populations today are markedly different.

    • Keri over the HILLson

      Nope she wasn’t. Her sister might have been but no proof that she was. Why all y’all want Cleopatra to be so bad? I’m all about Nefertiti!

    • BishPlease

      Yes, actually there is proof. As we now know her sister’s mother was definitely African and they were probably African. Additionally, her grandmother on her father’s side was probably African, and even if they had intermarried there family (Ptolemy) had been there for over 300 years…they intermixed. There is absolutely no way in the world that she was anything but mostly “black” African, Even modern facial reconstructions support this. Paintings, jewelry…they all support this. Pick up a book. Start with Sally Ann Ashton if you must know about Cleopatra then go back to Black Genesis with Robert Bauval and check out Diop for the greater bulk of evidence when concerning a black Egypt. Until you educate yourself, just be quiet, someone out there may actually read what you say and believe you.

    • Kerry over the HILLson

      I claim African – dark Africa where my people caeme from. You already wrote me off as ghetto and ignorant.. That is your class hangup. I may grew up poor, yes in the PROJECTS but you know what? I read every day since I was a kid. I loved the Egyptians when I was a kid then I started doing my research in college and found out that white people told us a bunch of lies about Egyptians but so did black revisionists too. I went to Egypt. I stayed with a family in Egypt. I saw those people and saw how they treated me. They do not love us. I am not descendants of them. I am a black African woman from deep down in Africa and my tribes don’t get the glory that the Egyptians do. Ask yourself why? Why are we all so obsessed with Egypt? because they are a little less black and were back then too. Who is the real brainwashed? But I am just an ignorant poor ghetto fool from Georgia right? What do I know. Cleopatra was a white woman. End of story. I’ll take Nefertiti. That was the bad ish/.

    • BishPlease

      I never said you were ghetto. The fact that you don’t know something makes you ignorant of it…literally…read the definition of ignorant. It’s a damn shame you are ignorant of your own history and the meaning of the word ignorance. “Light hair genes?” Bye, you are an idiot. All you had to do was actually read the evidence and educate yourself, but instead you’d rather wallow in your own self denial and ignorance. LOL My class hang up? #laughable. The ignorant child doesn’t even know what the meaning of the word ignorant is and it is still talking and making erroneous comments. I’m not going to fight to educate you. Waste of time. For everyone else that WANTS TO BE EDUCATED ON THE SUBJECT PLEASE TAKE THE COURSES ON COURSERA THEY ARE FREE. OTHER PEOPLE ARE LEARNING THE TRUTH OF YOUR HISTORY BEFORE YOU ARE, DON’T LET IT HAPPEN.

    • Kerry over the HILLson

      Yes, when you can’t convince someone, just infantilize them and call them a child then call me ignorant then call me ghetto. Go on. You are no the first person in my life who called me ghetto, ignorant, stupid, low class or whatever cause my parents were on welfare and I grew up in the projects. Yes, I did. But you have no idea who I am now and what I have done with my life but go on and call me all those things. I have been called all those and worst since I was a a child. You are a bully, that’s all. Slaves on a plantation? Oh, that is a new one. Never been called that one either. You are so imaginative. You can keep fighting to claim Egyptians all you want. I am black and I am descendants of black tribes in deep Africa. Ain’t no pyramids in my bloodline and I am cool with that. Y’all need to go over to Egypt and helped your kin folk fight their military state, that is what y’all need to do. Your brothers need you. Go on now, don’t you have more educated people to be responding to then little old ignorant me who is a child? I bet you are a man. Only a man would talk to a woman that way.

    • BishPlease

      That’s not true. You really need to do some research. Egypt was composed of what we now consider “Sub-Saharan African”

    • Keri over the HILLson

      Wrong!

    • BishPlease

      Could you show research to prove otherwise? It’s obvious by now that you are a troll.

    • Keri over the HILLson

      Where is YOUR research? Or is it just light envy so you could look more like the lighter Egyptians and not like the rest of the DARK Africans?

    • BishPlease

      I gave you the names of authors that did the research. Diop, Bauval and more. I told you where to find it and I gave you the points to research…what else do you need? That’t the problem with black people like you. It’s easier for you to believe a lie because it takes less effort. I posted links above, I gave you examples of greek historians that gave eyewitness accounts, I supplied you with DNA testing today. Why don;t you actually look at it? Unless you’re really just an angry white or other type of person that just likes to harass people on the internet. For the rest of you…. You can learn more about ancient Egypt, it’s customs and it’s people by enrolling in one of the many courses on Coursera.com. They are free There is an ancient nubians course from Emory available now that gives you the parallels to Egypt and basically explains why the populations were indeed largely homogenous. Lighter skin tones came in to play after invasions into the continent began and then Egypt was taken back over by Nubians and dark skin and the customs of Egypt were restored. This period is credited with the building of the great pyramids and the many that were built during the 25th dynasty. You need to wake up.

    • Kerry over the HILLson

      My my my. You are willing to personally attack someone just so you can claim some of that light skin, good haired, mixed Egyptian genes ain’t ya? Go on with your bad self. Like I said, ain’t nobody in my family or any family I grew up with that had no Egyptian, Israeli, Ethiopian or Northern African blood. We a bunch of dark skinned negroes from Ghana and further down. We got broad noses, dark skinned, coarse hair and tall as heck. We ain;t trippin. How come NONE of us carry any of those genes from these perfect Egyptians? Y’all just ashamed because our great tribes were oral tribes so did not write down everything but we were great people. I don’t need no pyramids to know that my people are great. I have done extensive research on Cleopatra and no scientist is willing to say she is black. Black ones too. I used to be all about her until I started researching real black African queens. There is a reason white people obsess about Cleopatra: she is theirs. Meanwhile, they sleepin’ on the real queens of Africa who were dark women like me and my kind who did great things. I am not going to sit here and burden you with links you are not going to read anyway. Trust me, the reason I know about Cleopatra and her sister is because I did my research. The woman was not black as we know black to be. Her sister MIGHT have been but it looks like they had same mother but different fathers. Why y’all trippn on them Middle Easterners so much? How many of them trying to claim YOU? NONE. Oh I have been to Egypt, twice. I know how they see us. Call me ignorant and ghetto if you like. That is all you got as ammunition anyway. Brainwashed.

    • BishPlease

      I can’t. You just refuse to learn. It’s like the slaves on the plantations that wouldn’t run because they feared freedom. This is sad but I thank you. I thank you for giving me an example of how black people hold onto whatever has been told to them instead of what has been proven and makes sense. I thank you for showing me that ignorance such as yours still exists on a monumental scale and until black people are all educated on their origins there will never be a true coalescence on anything among us. You are ignorant. You are wrong and science backs me up. I gave you author after author, source after source, link after link and you never refuted any of them…you just keep making things up and posting anecdotes. You were a waste of time, but hopefully, someday, someone will read this and look into what I’ve said and educate themselves. The textbooks are changing because the data is no longer hidden, you need to wake up and let go of your misplaced anger.

    • Kerry over the HILLson

      Oh, no, of course I don’t have access to research and facts. I am a dumb ignorant little girl remember? Only you seem to magically be able to do research. Me, of course not. Of course, you are the only smart one here. The only one with access to Wikipedia. Yes, in your little world if I can be ghetto, ignorant, low class and a child then you always win right? I mean why are you responding to me? I am stupid remember? I don’t know nothing. I refuse to accept those light skinned Egyptians as my brethren so I gotta be stupid. You and white people are fighting hard for those Egyptians, ain’t ya? Why waste time with me? I am ignorant and stupid remember? You would be better served to spend your time fighting the cause of your beloved Egyptian kinfolk. I am just a dumb negro who grew up in the projects. What do I know? Yes, ignorant. Cause in my entire life as if that is not the word I heard every day. My momma was called ignorant, my daddy was called ignorant, I was called ignorant. I know the word. Come back with something more biting. This one’s tired. You learned from white folk. I am from Georgia, I know. Now shoo.

  • paintgurl40

    Wow! Very beautiful images. If these icons of the Bible really looked like this…(fans face) LOL!