Some websites suggest the following Biblical characters 'could' have had red hair; however, that fact is up for debate in my opinion...I believe there is NO clear-cut evidence from the original Biblical terms.
There are some Biblical Hebrew terms that may suggest the hair color, but the words could also refer to a reddish complexion or skin tone. (The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek.)
(Info. from biblelexicon.org, International Bible Standard Encyclopedia, smithsonianmag.com. Used below is the 'New American Standard Bible' translation, which is one of the more literal translations versus some modern paraphrased versions. Bible translation versions people use are a matter of personal reading and study preferences.)
Oral traditions, stories, and folklore may contribute to the assumptions as well, plus artists' interpretations of these Bible characters in paintings, all of which may or may not be accurate. While it's wonderful to imagine them having red hair, we really do not know either way!!
One of the most famous Bible characters is Adam. Bible reference from the New American Standard Bible translation: Genesis 2:7 - "Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."
Hebrew is read right to left, and the term ‘adam’ (pronounced ‘aw-dawm’) is the term used for ‘man’ ‘mankind’ ‘human individual or species’ ‘blood flowing into the skin as in a living being’ -- literally means "red-blooded man." The word consists of 3 letters (right to left) -
Aleph, Daleth, and Mem. The Hebrew word for 'blood' is "dam" -- the letters Daleth and Mem.
Bible reference from the New American Standard Bible translation: Genesis 25:25 – "Now the first (of twins) came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau."
Red: 'ahdmoni' (pronounced: "ahd-mo-nee") reddish (of the hair or the complexion) -- red, ruddy.
So, entire body is supposed to have been covered with hair, but redness could be from reddish or ruddy complexion of skin OR could be from red hair covering him…no way to know really but seemed to have been a hairy guy!
David (King David)
According to The Bible’s Old Testament and Hebrew Bible, David lived around 1037-970 BC, writing many of the Psalms. This famous Bible character was the 2nd king of the United Kingdom of Israel and also reigned over Judah. He was a poet, musician, and warrior and one of my favorite famous people regardless of hair color!
Bible reference from the New American Standard Bible translation: I Samuel 16 - 17 = "When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance."
Again here, the Biblical Hebrew word, "ahdmoni" , means ruddy and is the form taken by the adjective ‘red’ – used as a term of praise of the human skin, the term often used in the Bible. So, could pertain to a reddish or ruddy complexion but perhaps did mean reddish hair as well.
"David Slaying Goliath" by Peter Paul Rubens
Some paintings of this Bible character show her as a redhead, but the New Testament does NOT mention her hair color! This is purely artist's interpretation... as seen in this painting of her by artist Piero di Cosimo.
She was from the town of Magdala (a village near the Sea of Galilee), thus "Mary of Magdala" and who she really is has become a jumbled mess. From the New Testament down to the repeated stories and now films, who she was has been very confusing and contorted. She has been considered a prostitute, mystic, secret partner, feminist, and more.
Part of the confusion comes from the gospel accounts of several different Bible characters named Mary: Mary (Jesus' mother), Mary of Bethany (sister of Lazarus and Martha), Mary (mother of James), and Mary (wife of Clopas). Adding to this are some 'unnamed' women who were 'sinners' such as the adulteress who the Pharisees dragged to Jesus and tried to stone, the Samaritan woman at the well who met Jesus there, and one who cried at Jesus' feet and anointed them and wiping them with her hair in love.
So for Mary Magdalene, we DO seem to know from the New Testament that she was a loyal follower of Jesus, she was definitely one of the women who stayed with Jesus during his crucifixion, was present at the tomb, and seems to be the 1st person that saw Jesus after his resurrection.
-- Her HAIR COLOR? We just don't know! I personally read a lot of stuff on her I don't agree with, but everyone has their own opinions based on their religious beliefs and research. However, I do agree with this observation... :)
One reader commented -- "If she [Magdalene] were a redhead, then that would mean Jesus had good taste." (Kelly)
According to the Bible’s New Testament, Jesus chose Judas as one of his original 12 disciples, apparently their treasurer in charge of their money bag.
Judas is the Bible character famous as being the one who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver that led to Jesus’ crucifixion by the Romans. One of those unforgettable famous people whose name is now synonymous with betrayal.
I’ve read several places on some websites that Judas was rumored to have red hair, but there's no way to confirm this since the Biblical account does NOT describe how he looked.
I personally believe his hair color all started because in some cultures people with red hair were considered evil. Thus, since having red hair had a negative connotation, Judas was depicted that way but not because of factual evidence. An example is in this closeup from the painting by Carl Bloch of the 'The Last Supper' where Judas is leaving to betray Jesus, in which the artist portrays Judas with red hair.
So, WERE THESE BIBLE CHARACTERS ALL RED HEADS?
Well, my personal theory is there is no way to know the truth. Bible accounts do not give us enough information. All that's left are stories, rumors, myths, and just artists' renditions that may or may not be accurate. Just because an artist's painting shows them as having red hair does NOT mean it's true -- it's their interpretation. Stories and oral traditions also get twisted and changed over the centuries.
I know other websites claim these Bible characters are red heads, but I feel the evidence doesn't support it one way or the other, even though I like to think that King David and others had red hair -- Well, that's just me....Go to my "Contact Me" page to share YOUR thoughts on 'redhead' Bible characters and, if appropriate, I'll post them below.
-- YOUR COMMENTS --
"Interesting article. I read somewhere that the oldest depiction of Jesus was a painting found in an old Bible. The picture showed Jesus as dark with dark brown or black hair and beard, but upon closer inspection it was discovered that someone had painted over the original. That original showed Jesus with red curly hair and beard! Considering how red hair is inherited and that Esau was very likely a redhead according to Scripture,
it's entirely possible. It's also interesting that in Psalm 22 David prophetically wrote a vision of Jesus on the cross where He is referred to as a "worm," which my Strong's Concordance says is a red grub. Hmmm…...Well, this grub produces a red dye when crushed, and Jesus was certainly red as he hung there on the cross. Something I find especially thought provoking though, and humbling, is the knowledge that redheads have an inherited propensity to pain. They literally feel pain more intensely than other colors. Reds are advised to mention this to their doctors before any surgeries or tooth work. If Jesus was a red, He would have had this propensity as well. Just some thoughts. I raised two reds. You have a wonderful page. God bless you," Sarah
"Red hair is more common among some ethnic groups. Celtic people often have it. The Judaeans often had red hair, and even today it is still common in both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews. In some parts of Europe where red hair is very rare, red hair was a Jewish stereotype. So... it is not Eurocentrism when artists depict biblical characters with colored hair or pale skin. There was a huge number of ethnic groups in the Near East before Hellenism and especially Islam homogenized it. A few of these groups escaped extinction, like the Chaldeans, and while not
being Nordic, they can have light hair and blue eyes. This is all very interesting. Besides many ethnicities that became extinct, also animals like lions and bears and weird plants (silphium) went extinct. The Near East wasn't a homogenous dump like it is today, but a fertile and diverse area. So red hair was a fact. I don't have red hair, but it's the rarest color of
hair and it's awesome."