The physical appearance of Jesus

Mus Zibii

Reaction score
The face of Jesus is clearly a subject that has fascinated people since the dawn of Christianity forward. The story of Veronica with her bloody cloth was one of the first extra-biblical anecdotes to became a part of established tradition. And now we have the Shroud of Turin, completely unsupported by evidence, but venerated by faith. There was a cartoon from the 70s or there abouts that had a trinity of Jesus' on a gameshow, one the beautiful white Anglo-Protestant Jesus wearing a halo, one the bloodied, suffering Catholic Jesus wearing a crown of thorns and the last a hook-nosed, short, thin, historical Palestinian. With the exception of the last, where do these images come from?

For the sake of amusement, I thought I'd collect all the traditional references:

From Isaiah, the supposed prophecy:

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground:he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Sunan Abu Dawud (I'm copying this from the net, never read it myself, might be wrong.):

The Prophet said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Isa . He will descend. When you see him, recognise him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill the swine, and abolish jizyah. He will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.

From the Acts of John (a description that is nearly identical to that of St Paul):

And my brother hearing that, said: John, what would this child have that is upon the sea-shore and called us? And I said: What child? And he said to me again: That which beckoneth to us. And I answered: Because of our long watch we have kept at sea, thou seest not aright, my brother James; but seest thou not the man that standeth there, comely and fair and of a cheerful countenance? But he said to me: Him I see not, brother; but let us go forth and we shall see what he would have. And so when we had brought the ship to land, we saw him also helping along with us to settle the ship and when we departed from that place, being minded to follow him, again he was seen of me as having rather bald, but the beard thick and flowing, but of James as a youth whose beard was newly come.

Yet unto me there then appeared this yet more wonderful thing for I would try to see him privily, and I never at any time saw his eyes blinking, but only open. And oft-times he would appear to me as a small man and uncomely, and then againt as one reaching unto heaven.

Celsus quoted from Origen:

Since a divine Spirit inhabited the body (of Jesus), it must certainly have been different From that of other beings, in respect of grandeur, or beauty, or strength, or voice, or impressiveness, or persuasiveness. For it is impossible that He, to whom was imparted some divine quality beyond other beings, should not differ from others; whereas this person did not differ in any respect from another, but was, as they report, little, and ill-favoured, and ignoble.

Clemens of Alexandria was supposed to have said something similar to Origen's rebuttal to Celsus in the Paedagogus, but I can't find it.

Compare to description of Paul from the acts of Paul:

And he saw Paul coming, a man little of stature, thin-haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked, full of grace: for sometimes he appeared like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel.
Kindest Regards, Mus Zibii!

That's an interesting post, I was not familiar with these extra-Biblical sources.

An equally interesting consideration, in my view, is why the Madonna is fair skinned, blue eyed and blonde haired, if she is supposed to be the mother of Jesus.

And this representation of Madonna predates Christianity by a couple of thousand years, found in a number of artifacts dating into Sumeria.

In the end, we may never know. And really, is it that important? I mean, which is more important; the message, or the view? ;)
His appearance would certainly be affected as to whether he was a Nazarene or not - which was a school of thought (and, I think, pretty ascetic), with long hair being a trademark of this group. Note that this is different from being associated by birth or familial ties to Nazareth. :)

I'm not ultimately sure where the idea of Jesus being of the Nazarenes comes from - but if so, it's somewhat antagonistic to the later comment by Paul in Corinthians 11:14: 'Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?'"
Yeah, I meant to include the long hair issue and the quote from numbers. The whole interpretation of nazri and nazoraios is a subject unto itself.

There's also a line from the Talmud that uses the Rabbinical description of Balaam for Jesus, borrowing from Daniel, calling him lame and blind. Then there are the remains of 1st Century Palestinian Jews which are commonly afflicted with cleft palates, pladiocephaly and other anomalies that resulted from malnutrition, difficult birth, etc.

So no, the white Jesus, with the clean straight teeth is pretty much out of the cards As well as the 6'5" figure on the Shroud of Turin, who would've been a goliath among his community.

Is this the short-coming of a historical deity? Or a pleasant nuance that distinguishes Jesus from Zeus?