Depiction of Jesus from the Shroud of Turin (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Each religion tends to depict Jesus Christ in different ways (with small changes from one to another), but how accurate is today’s depictions of Jesus Christ to what he actually looked like? The Gospels tell us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem between six to four B.C. He is said to have spent most of his childhood in Egypt after which he moved to Nazareth, in present-day Israel.
Was there a description of his physical appearance?
Based on the research done by Joan Taylor, Professor of Theology at King’s College London, the Gospel does not mention anything about the physical appearance of Jesus Christ. There is only a vague mention of the clothes that he wore. The professor also mentions how interesting the fact is that no one was interested enough in Jesus's appearance in order to write it down. It is possible that such scriptures were written, but lost in time.
What is more interesting is that the physical appearances of both Moses and David are described in detail, portraying them as handsome men. Other smaller, but still important, characters within the Bible have a small mention of their physical appearance, so we would expect that someone must have also noted down the physical appearance of Jesus Christ.
In the search for the real appearance
Professor Taylor had always been very curious about the appearance of Jesus Christ and to create a more accurate depiction, she worked with archeologists and other experts in theology in order to analyze old texts from the time Jesus was in Egypt.
Based on the study, a more accurate assumption was made of Jesus being 5.5 feet tall which even then was considered an average high. A very manly figure with short black hair, brown eyes, and a very complex skin tone. The length of hair is based on what most men were wearing at the time due to hair lice which was a big problem.
The Gospels also inform us that Jesus was a carpenter who worked a lot, but didn’t have much to eat, that is how experts got the idea that he was a slim but muscular man based on the nature of his work and poor diet. Maybe Jesus was so average looking based on the appearance of those around him that the authors of the Gospels didn’t pay any attention to record such details.
Artists have tried to come up with a more accurate depiction of Jesus Christ based on the discoveries and studies of Joan Taylor. A new interesting concept is shown in Joan Taylor’s 2018 book What Did Jesus Look Like?
The concept shows a man who has worked hard most of his life, whilst having a healthy physique. The artist didn’t focus much on the face as this depiction has Jesus holding his head down, therefore not showing his face. This was probably done due to the lack of details when it comes to facial characteristics.
Another look at this topic would be the Shroud of Turin as some claim that the negative image of the man in the shroud represents Jesus of Nazareth with the fabric on top being the burial shroud in which he was wrapped after his crucifixion.