Recently, British scientists have teamed up with Israeli archaeologists to construct what is believed to be the most accurate representation of what Jesus looked like. The final picture was put together by Richard Neave, forensic anthropologist from Manchester University.
The reconstruction was based on the assumption that Jesus would have looked like an ordinary Jew of his day, in terms of skull shape, eye colour and hair colour and length. They concluded that he would have been bearded, again like most other Jews at the time.
We may add the following hints from the Bible itself:-
- Nothing extraordinary about his appearance. He was able quite easily to disappear into the crowd (Lk 4:30; Jn 5:13), and Jewish officials, when looking for him, often couldn’t find him (Jn 7:11; 11:56). In Gethsemane, it was difficult for those looking for him to distinguish between him and his disciples.
- Short, rather than long, hair. Jewish men of the day wore short hair, and Paul (1 Cor 11:14) remarks that ‘if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him’. Moreover, in his work as a tekton (builder in wood, stone, or metal) long hair would have been hazardous.
- Strong, well-built. Again, as a tekton, Jesus would likely be of manly, muscular, appearance.
- Not physically attractive? Isa 53:2 describes the coming Servant of the Lord as, among other things, as having ‘no beauty that we should desire him’. However, this may well refer to his appearance during his trial, when he was whipped and scourged.
Of course, we should treat the question of Jesus’ physical appearance with some caution. Whereas in the Old Testament David is described as being handsome, with a ruddy complexion, the New Testament makes no direct attempt to describe Jesus’ appearance. We may infer if we knew more about Jesus’ physical features we would be tempted to reproduce these in pictures and sculptures, and end up worshiping the image rather than the man.