What did Jesus look like?

No one knows, of course, since no one now alive saw Jesus when He walked the earth, and the writers of the New Testament never described Him in the slightest bit -- never said whether He was short or tall, whether He had piercing eyes or long hair or anything.   They told us what He said, but they never told us anything about how He looked.

This is the picture of Jesus that I grew up with. 

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It probably is not accurate.  Jesus, after all, was a Jew.  That does not mean that He must have fit the stereotype of olive skin, black hair, brown eyes, and long nose.   He might have been light-skinned, brown-haired, and short-nosed.  But it is more likely that He looked like the stereotype than that He did not. 

There are a couple of possible sources that might reveal what He looked like.   There is a legend (whether based on any truth or not, I can't tell) that a woman took pity on Him and wiped His sweating face while He was carrying His cross toward His death.  The legend says that an image of His face was imprinted on the cloth.   It is the vera icon ("true image"), and the woman whose cloth it was thus came to be known as Veronica.  Domenico Fetti was in Rome in 1606 when the Veil of Veronica, as the kerchief became known, was installed in the crossing of St. Peter's Basilica.  He painted it, and this is his work:

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Another possible source of knowledge about Jesus' appearance may  be the Shroud of Turin.  The Shroud is an ancient burial shroud which wrapped the dead body of someone who was apparently crucified.  The crucifixion wounds in his hands and feet are obvious.  Also, his brow was bleeding, as it would if a crown of cruel thorns were pushed down on it.  The image of the man's body, front and back, is imprinted upon the shroud.  The imprint is not from paint but apparently from some sort of radiation.  The technology for making such an imprint was not present in the past and is not present now.  Was the imprint made by the immense power being released by a man being raised from the dead?

Carbon dating tests have been made of the shroud, and the tests indicated that the shroud was not old enough to be the shroud of Jesus from 2000 years ago.  The problem is that a number of things can throw off carbon dating, and so the conclusion is not conclusive.  It is still possible that the shroud was the one that wrapped Jesus, and therefore that the image on the cloth is that of Jesus.  Here is the negative of the image on the shroud, and next to it an "enhanced" version:

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That is probably as close as we can get to the way Jesus actually looked.  I think this following picture is as good as I have seen (wish I knew who the artist is):

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The man in the shroud had very long hair in a pony tail down his back.  Such long hair was a mark of a Nazarite, a  Jew consecrated to God who had taken certain vows (like Samson): not to cut his hair, not to drink wine, not to go near a dead body.   Jesus was, of course, a Nazarene (that is, someone from Nazareth), but there is no indication in the Scriptures that He was a Nazarite.  He certainly did not abstain from wine (Matt. 11:18-19), just as Samson did not.  Rather than avoid the dead, He raised them.  He was clearly not a full Nazarite, in the sense that Moses instituted the role, but He may have kept a part of the vows.  The New Testament does not mention anything about long hair, however, so we have no verification apart from the Shroud that He had such lengthy hair.

And, it is likely that Jesus was a physically strong man, not the thin and weak-looking man we so often see in paintings.  After all, He lived the hard-working life of a carpenter until He was about thirty years old, as far as we know from the Gospels.

What matters, of course, is not so much what Jesus looks like, but rather what He is.   And He is the risen Lord, the one who died due to our sins and rose again to conquer sin and death and hopelessness.  He is the One we worship

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Not only is He more powerful than sin and death and Hell, but He is the true Son of His Father.  He loves us, just as His Father loves us with an eternal love.  He desires to help us, to lead us, to rescue us, to save us.  He holds out His arms to us forever, and will welcome us when we finally care enough for love that we come to Him.

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Welcome Home by Hahlbohm

 

The story of His life--of His suffering and death, of His resurrection and victory--is the most beautiful story the world can ever know.  Of course, it is best relived by reading the Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  But many of the greatest artists who have ever lived have honored Him by painting scenes from His life.  In the following pages, I will share some of the very best works that I have found depicting the life of Jesus.  You can begin at the beginning and follow all the way to the end, or if you like, you can just look at paintings of only a part of His life by choosing from the list below (click on the pictures).

jesus1.jpg (3599 bytes)    The Annunciation.  The angel Gabriel announced to the virgin Mary that she would bear a child, the Son of God.  (Luke 1:26-38)

jesus1.jpg (3599 bytes)     The Adoration of the Shepherds.  On the night Jesus was born, angels appeared to common shepherds in the fields and announced that the Messiah of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. (Luke 2:1-20)

jesus1.jpg (3599 bytes)    The Adoration of the Magi.  While Jesus was still a baby, wise men from the East came to adore Him.  They were guided by a star to find the King of the Jews.   (Matt. 2:1-23)

jesus1.jpg (1924 bytes)      The Ministry of Jesus.   Jesus grew up, and as a man began His ministry of proclaiming the Good News and healing people.

jesus1.jpg (1924 bytes)      Jesus Enters Jerusalem.   Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, cleansed the temple, and taught the people and His disciples.

jesus1.jpg (1924 bytes)      The Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane.   Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples and prayed in the garden on the night before He was murdered.

jesus1.jpg (1924 bytes)      The Trial.  Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate

jesus1.jpg (1924 bytes)      The Crucifixion.  Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried.  To see crucifixion paintings by Peter Paul Rubens or to see the stations of the cross, click on one of the titles below.

                                        The Crucifixion by Rubens

                                        The Stations of the Cross

jesus1.jpg (1924 bytes)      The Resurrection.  On the third day after His death, Jesus rose from the dead.

jesus1.jpg (1924 bytes)     The Appearances of the risen Jesus.  Jesus appeared to many people after His resurrection

jesus1.jpg (1924 bytes)      The Ascension and the Return.   Jesus ascended to His Father and shall return from there to judge the living and the dead.

If you want to return to my home page, click here.