What was Jesus really Look Like: Hidden Mystery of Jesus’ Appearances that may Leave You Perplexed
Christian Gospels and early Christian writings refer to Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) or the Son of God, crucified for the sins of humanity before rising for the dead. According to the Gospels, Jesus was born around 4 B.C., performed supernatural feats: healing diseases by simple touch and talk, walked over the water, creating a vast amount of bread and fish, resurrect the dead, rise from the dead himself, calming violent storms and drove out demons and evil spirits from people.
The stories related to Christ have led several scholars in exploring some questions: “What was Jesus really like?” and “Did Christ really exist”? Most of the scientists report that the supernatural feats performed by Christ are impossible at least by a person living 2,000 years ago.
Trying to understand what Christ was really like is complicated by the fact that the earliest texts discussed Jesus date to the 2nd century A.D., though some scholars and intellectuals report them to have been copied from the documents of the 1st century.
In 2015, intellectuals claimed that a copy of the Gospel of Mark dating to the first century was as found, although they appeared that the copy dated back to the 2nd or 3rd century.
Despite several challenges recent historical and archaeological researches have allowed scholars in shedding light on the aspects of Christ’s life: what he looked like and the ways he spent his life in his hometown, Nazareth.
What Jesus looked like?
For centuries the most common images of Christ, at least in the Western culture, include a bearded, fair-skinned man having a wavy, light brown or blond hair and blue eyes. However, there is no physical description of Christ in the Holy Bible and all the evidence that exists indicates he looked different from how he had long been portrayed.
What does the Bible say?
The Bible offers few clues about his physical appearance, and most of what is profoundly known to us come from the first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. According to the Gospels, Christ was a Jewish man, born in Bethlehem and raised in the town of Nazareth, in Galilee (formerly Palestine, now northern Israel) during the first century A.D.
Scholars claim that the Bible describes Christ as a 30-year-old man, began his ministry (Luke 3:23), however, does not describe what he looked like. When Christ was arrested in Gethsemane’s garden before he was crucified (Matthew 26:47-56), Judas Iscariot pointed out Christ to all the soldiers amongst the disciples and is often presumed that all looked similar to one another.
Many scholars claim Revelation 1:14-15 offered a clue about Jesus’s dark skin and woolly textured hair. The hair of his head is metaphoric to wool and snow, his hair to a flame of fire, his feet to burnished bronze that is refined in a furnace.
What history says?
Assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa and editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, Robert Cargill is of the view that none of us has seen him and is hard to describe him. Furthermore, he states, if all that describes him are true, he was a Palestinian Jew living in Galilee during the first century, he would look the same to his kind, a Jewish Galilean.
Some of the earliest artistic representations of Christ dates back to the mid-third century A.D..., which is more than two centuries after his death. These paintings have been found in the ancient catacombs of St. Domitilla in Rome, discovered first some 400 years ago.
The paintings represent one of the most common images of the time and depict Christ as the Good Shepherd. Christ, here, is portrayed as a young, short-haired beardless person surrounded by lamb on all sides.
In the year 2018, another rare portrait of Christ has been discovered from the walls of a ruined church in southern Israel. It’s the earliest known paintings in Israel that had been painted back in the 6th century A.D., portraying Jesus with a shorter, curly hair.
It was a depiction common to the eastern parts of the Byzantine Empire, prominent in Egypt and Syria-Palestine region, but later disappeared from the art.
The present-day images of Christ depicting long hair and beard emerged at the beginning of the 4th century A.D. and heavily influenced by the representations of Roman and Greek gods, particularly, the all-powerful Zeus.
At the same point, Jesus began to appear in a long robe, sitting on a throne (such as the 5th century mosaic on the altar of the Santa Pudenziana church in Rome) and sometimes with a halo surrounding his head.
Professor of Christian origins and second temple Judaism at King's College London, Joan Taylor states in The Irish Times that these images were created to represent Jesus not as a man, but for theological points stating Him as Christ (Messiah) and divine Son. These paintings and thoughts evolved to represent a standard picture of Jesus that we recognize today.
Definitely, not all the images of Christ conform to the dominant images of him portrayed in Western art. Rather, many different cultures around the globe have depicted him as of their own. In the words of Cargill, “Cultures tend to portray prominent religious figures to look like the dominant racial identity.”
Out of the several possible relics related to Christ, surfaced over the centuries, the Shroud of Turin is one of the most well-known that caught the eyes of intellectuals and researchers in 1354.
The Christians or the believers of Christ argue that he was wrapped in the piece of linen after being crucified and the shroud bears a clear image of his face. However, several experts dismissed the shroud calling it fake, and the Vatican itself referred to as an “icon” rather than a relic.
In 2001, Richard Nave, a retired medical artist with a team of Israeli and British forensic anthropologist and computer programmers created a new image of Jesus, based on an Israeli skull dated back to the 1st century A.D. Through computer modeling and combination of their knowledge about the appearance of people during the time, created a new image of Christ.
Although no one claimed the image to be a perfect reconstruction of how Jesus looked, scholars consider the image 5 feet tall, darker skin, dark eyes, and shorter and curlier hair to be a more accurate reformation of Christ’s image that many artistic depictions of the Son of God.
Taylor’s book “What did Jesus look like?”, have used descriptions from several pieces of evidence gathered from archaeological remains, historical texts, and ancient art found in Egypt. With these sources, she concluded that, like most people in Judea and Egypt, Christ was 5ft-5in. (166cm) tall, the average height of a man at the time, had brown eyes, dark brown to black hair, and olive-brown skin.
However, Cargill agreed that most of the recent images of Jesus include darker skin, darker and curly hair, and dark eyes. The differences in Christ’s appearances states the truth that no one can never know exactly how Jesus Christ looked like.
He further questions about the appearances of the Jewish Galileans to which he himself expects that they probably did not have blue eyes and blond hair.
In the end, we see Jesus as a man of Middle-eastern appearance with black or brown eyes, scruffy short hair, and beard, wearing basic clothing consisting of a knee-length, one piece of the tunic, and an undyed mantle. With a close and detailed reading of the gospel, Jesus’ appearances coincide perfectly with his teachings. Can we recognize him as he really looked if we meet him on the way?
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