What Did Jesus Look Like?

Matthew 17:1-3 New International Version (NIV)  “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John the brother of James with him. He led them up a high mountain. They were all alone.  There in front of them his appearance was changed. His face shone like the sun. His clothes became as white as the light.”

Have you wondered what Jesus looked like when on earth?  Many depictions exist, but I’m unsure if any of them have captured his appearance correctly.  As a lad I remember some great portraits of Jesus hanging on the wall or printed on a fan or bulletin at church.  He was like a light-skinned European more than a Middle Eastern Jew.  

Rodrigo de Borja of Spain became Pope Alexander VI when Columbus sailed to the Americas.  He fathered several children with various mistresses.  One son, Caesar Borgia, became a Cardinal.  He was deemed to be quite handsome.  

The Pope commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint a portrait of Jesus based upon Caesar Borgia.  As a result, this depiction of Jesus as a Spanish-Italian man became the accepted norm of His appearance.  It was perpetuated in the United States by white Christian churches and reenforced by actors who portrayed Him in movies and television.  

Interestingly, this famous Leonardo da Vinci painting known as Savior of the World sold for $450.3 million to a private buyer at an auction in late 2017.  Even almost a half-billion dollar investment doesn’t tell us much about Jesus’s appearance, so what did He look like?  The Bible provides a few hints.

First, with a Jewish mother he inherited common Semitic traits, so He blended in with regular people.  Sometimes He traveled in secret without being recognized.  Judas even had to point Him out to the Roman soldiers.  Second, Jesus likely had short hair, as the Scriptures teach that long hair is a dishonor.  Third, He probably had a beard in observance of Jewish custom.  Fourth, I imagine Him to be physically fit, as He walked everywhere and turned over the tables in the Temple.  Fifth, His facial countenance showed kindness, compassion, and happiness, as He displayed these traits.  

Do you have an imagination of what Jesus looked like?  The great news is that we’ll know one day, and it won’t be too long from now.  

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