What did Jesus look like? In reality, no one in the modern era knows the answer to that question, though there are plenty of works of art that attempt to imagine Christ’s facial and bodily structure.
It’s a topic that continues to spark intrigue, which is why every year, without fail, a rendering first published in 2002 that showed what someone who lived during Jesus’ time might have looked like ends up making headlines. It’s that rendering that some experts believe offers up one of the best lenses into what Christ’s face might have looked like.
The most recent article about this intriguing image was published on Saturday by the Daily Express, which explained that the computer-generated face — which looks nothing like traditional renderings of Christ — was created by facial artist Richard Neave.
It’s an intricate graphic that was created by British scientists and Israeli archeologists who employed forensic anthropology. The image features a man with short brown hair, dark eyes and a dark complexion; the signature long hair that is observed in most pieces of art depicting Christ is missing, with the rendering showing a short cut, according to Popular Mechanics.
Neave triangulated information in an effort to come up with the image, relying on examples of what Jewish men from the first century looked like as the basis for the final product. To accomplish this goal, he and his team were able to observe skulls that were found near Jerusalem, using them as the baseline for the overall facial and head structure.
And this is the image they came up with:
Medieval artist/scientist Richard Neave draws Jesus Based on Forensic Anthropological Research. pic.twitter.com/HxCl1jQhc3
— That Scoop (@ThatScoop) December 15, 2015
But it was much more complicated than mere structure, as the team also used computer programs to assess the thickness of soft tissue around the face and then re-created that tissue based on those projections, Popular Mechanics reported.
The outlet noted, though, that Jesus’ hair and the color of his skin couldn’t be determined through these processes, so Neave and his fellow researchers had to look at drawings from the first century, and thus concluded that Christ likely had darker eyes and a beard.
The idea of shorter rather than longer hair was taken from 1 Corinthians, where Paul condemned long hair on men. 1 Corinthians 11:14 reads, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him.”
While Neave’s image is a face and doesn’t deal with Jesus’ height, the average Semite man living in Christ’s time was just 5 ft. 1 in., a pretty short stature considering today’s far more towering men.
The subject of Jesus’ appearance was also taken up by The Gospel Coalition back in 2010, with writer Justin Taylor backing much of what’s included in the Popular Mechanics article. He also noted that Isaiah 53:2 in the Old Testament seems to say that Jesus likely wasn’t astoundingly attractive. That verse reads, “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”
Of course, this debate has gone on and on, and not everyone embraces Neave’s assessment. Professor Joan Taylor of King’s College in London pushed back against this portrayal in 2015. You can see what she had to say here.
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