Skip to comments.We have a pretty good idea what Jesus looked like
Posted on 03/04/2011 6:27:07 AM PST by dangus
It is commonly claimed that we have little idea what Jesus looked like. Some have even gone to such despicable extremes as to describe traditional depictions of Jesus as looking like an "effeminate hippy." The truth is that although some images of Jesus have made him look overly European, we do have a good sense of what he looked like.
Jesus had a beard. To shave off one's beard was a great dishonor (see 1 Sam 21, 2 Sam 10:4, Isaiah 50:6). One particular humiliation the Messiah withstood was that the centurions plucked out his beard (Isaiah 50:6); certainly they were grabbing significant portions, not just a few day's growth.
Jesus probably did have long hair. The Gospel of Matthew states that the birth of Jesus "fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene (2:23)." In context, Matthew is obviously making a play on the fact that Jesus was born in Nazareth, but prophesy isn't dismissed by a pun, and the prophecy plainly referred to the a Nazarite.
Nazarites were people who atoned for the sins of the people by making sacrifices of their bodies. (Sound familiar?) They abstained from strong drink and grape products. Since Jesus didn't do this, one might suppose that he was not a Nazarite. (Actually, as Luke 5:33 records it, his disciples didn't abstain from drink, there's no reason to suppose Jesus drank apart from ritual.) On the other hand, it confounded people that he didn't do this, which suggests he may have been regarded as a Nazarite, or appeared to be one. So how does one appear to be a Nazarite?
Nazarites didn't cut or groom their hair. As such, they were considered offensive and humiliated in Jewish culture, which began to assume that they were atoning for their own sins, even though this was in opposition to scripture! (See Lam. 4:7, Amos 2:11). The fact that long hair was considered shameful (1 Cor 11:14), thus, shouldn't be considered evidence that Jesus didn't have long hair, since Jesus bore our shame (Isaiah 53:4).
Jesus was fairly ordinary looking, for his time and place. Isaiah 52:14 notes that "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him." But this doesn't mean he looked perfectly typical. The Talmud depicts Adam as a majestic and beautiful giant; one might have expected the Messiah to look like a Son of God. (The Sons of God were a race of giants, see Gen. 6:2.) We shouldn't discount the possibility that he was rather tall, or forget that recent growth in mankind's average height is a result of better diet, not genetic change. Contrary to the recent assertions of the History channel, There is no reason to believe Jesus was rather short.
He was, however, gaunt. As a carpenter, he probably had been fairly muscular, since carpentry involved real labor. But the bible tells of frequent fasting, including one fast of forty days with no food at all (Mat 4:2). By the time he was crucified, he was so thin, you could count all his bones (Psalm 22:17).
Lastly, it's not necessarily true that we have no record of his appearance. Eastern Christian tradition, not infallible, but not baseless, either, asserts that the evangelist Luke was a physician and a painter, and that although Luke's images are lost, the iconic images of Christ Pantocrator are based on them. Christ Pantocrator is consistent with scripture: Bearded, slender, long-haired.. and very Jewish looking. It's also consistent with the numerous supposedly miraculous images of Christ, such as Veronica's veil and the Shroud of Turin. Among scripture and these images, we have a very good sense of what Jesus looked like, indeed.
Shroud of Turn
Holy Face of Vienna
4th century catacomb
And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
You shall make an ark of acacia wood, tow and a half cubits long, one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. Plate it inside and out with pure gold around the top of it. Cast four gold rings and fasten them on the four supports of the ark, two rings on the one side and two on the opposite side. Then make poles of acacia wood and plate them with gold. These poles you are to put through the rings on the sides of the ark, for carrying it; they must remain in the rings of the ark and never be withdrawn. In the ark you are to put the commandments which I will give you.
You shall then make a propitiatory of pure gold, two cubits and a half ling, on one and a half cubits wide. Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the propitiatory, fastening them so that one cherub springs direct from each end. The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, covering the propitiatory with them; they shall be turned toward each other, but with their faces looking toward the propitiatory. This propitiatory you shall then place on top of the ark. In the ark itself you are to put the commandments, I will tell you all the commands that I wish you to give the Israelites.
It was the offspring of the Sons of God (fallen angels) and human women who were the race of giants.
If Jesus was careful to wash his hands and feet, he surely also combed his hair. In any case, the traditional artwork is beautiful.
Notice the commonalities in all the images: Long, slender nose; low but pronounced cheekbones; heavy lower lip; long face; moderately heavy brow that falls towards the extremities; deep-set eyes.
The book about Colton is called, Heaven is for Real.
So if the Bible doesn't explicitly command something it is forbidden?
Read Exodus. God commands all kinds of images to be created in the tabernacle, on vestments on the ark etc.
that one picture looks like Hulk Hogan
Notice how Jesus looks Italian in all the paintings? I always picture him as a young Billy Crystal.
>> I can’t recall the commandment to Christians to draw/paint/sculpt images of Jesus. Can you refresh my memory? <<
1. The LORD ordered Moses to break the commandments he had just given Moses, but it’s OK to break the LORD’s commandments when the LORD commands you to break the LORD’s commandments, or
2. You’re misunderstanding the commandments of the LORD.
I’m going with #2. The pagans were fashioning their own Gods. “Graven images” is better translated as “molten idols,” but King James needed an excuse to destroy the cultural memory of his illiterate subjects, who relied on pictures to help recall the stories they had learned.
In contrast, the pagans would melt down their war booty into idols, as a way of saving the precious metals until the next war. To spend their income in any way not related to war would thus be sacreligious. “To worship” was to signify obedience and allegiance.
Until Gutenberg invented the press, and for sometime after, literacy was largely the domain of clerics and the aristocracy. The vast majority of the laity's knowledge of Biblical events was communicated through painting, sculpture and stained glass. Whether or not they actually "looked" like Christ is no more important than whether or not the letters, "C-h-r-i-s-t" look like Christ. They are a means of conveying the concept of Christ.
Unless of course you have something against sharing the news of God with illiterate people...
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